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Will remote work be the norm after the pandemic?

Some state and local government IT officials who’ve had to rapidly transition their organizations to remote work said they think the changes to their work environments could persist after their states lift the stay-at-home orders brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Chattanooga, Tennessee, Chief Information Officer Brent Messer told StateScoop his city has been ready for remote work since 2017, when it shut down its physical data centers and invested heavily in virtualized systems and cloud-based software, with an emphasis on mobile access. “We’ve had work-from-home policies for the last two years anyway so this is kind of like business as usual for us," he said. Messer also said cities could use the growth of telework to trim future budgets. “They want to cut budgets and stuff and I’m like, great, as soon as our contract’s up for our building, don’t renew it. I’ll just send everybody home," he said. Colin Wood reports.

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Mobile voting backer says Voatz 'needs to address' bugs

Voatz, the publisher of a mobile app that’s been used in several controversial pilot projects, needs to address its vulnerabilities before it can regain the confidence of election officials, according to a foundation that’s been working with state and local governments to allow some voters to cast ballots over mobile phones. “Voatz needs to address some of the concerns,” said Sheila Nix, the president of Tusk Philanthropies, which has been working with a handful of state and local election administrators since 2018 to allow military and overseas voters to send ballots back home with their handheld devices. But after recent reports — one from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the other, sanctioned by Voatz itself, from the security firm Trail of Bits — revealed "severe" vulnerabilities with the app, some of the governments that worked with Voatz have switched to a competing platform as they continue their mobile voting experiments. Benjamin Freed reports.

Inside Los Angeles' quick move to remote work

Los Angeles' quick transition of thousands of municipal employees to a remote-working platform has positioned the city as one of the technological leaders as governments respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic. And now other jurisdictions are asking for advice as they make similar moves, the city's chief information officer, Ted Ross, says on a new episode of StateScoop's "Priorities" podcast. Ross says internal conversations started after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began warning localities in February about how quickly COVID-19 could spread in crowded offices. “What would it look like if we had to do some telecommuting, whether it was individuals here and there, or phased approaches to telecommuting or, in hindsight, mass telecommuting, which is exactly what we’re seeing right now,” he says. Listen to the podcast.

Microsoft expands security offerings to election officials

Microsoft said last week it is expanding its cybersecurity offerings to state and local election officials, including access to a free service that offers threat detection on email or other accounts, and specialized services from the company’s incident-response group. The company said it is giving state and local officials — as well as members of Congress and their staffs — access to AccountGuard, a free service that alerts users of Microsoft’s Outlook and Hotmail email platforms or its Office 365 suite of productivity applications if their accounts are threatened or compromised by hackers known to be associated with a foreign government. Microsoft is offering state and local election officials discounts on services provided by its in-house incident-response team, as well. It also published a series of recommendations that election officials should adopt as they adjust their procedures to the coronavirus pandemic, such as making it easier for voters to request absentee ballots online. Ben has more.

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