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New York's IT "SWAT teams" get to work

The “SWAT teams” that the New York State Office of Information Technology Services formed last month, recruiting tech-industry professionals to aid the state government’s response to the COVID-19 health crisis, launched their first products this week with tools designed to help New Yorkers screen themselves for symptoms and determine if they need to be tested for the deadly respiratory illness. ITS officials worked with Microsoft and Apple to create self-diagnostic surveys that asks users if they’re suffering from any of the known symptoms of COVID-19 or if they’ve knowingly been in contact with people who have been diagnosed. The Microsoft tool can also help people schedule a test to determine if they've been infected with the novel coronavirus. More than 6,500 tech workers have volunteered to help the state during the health crisis, ITS said. Benjamin Freed reports.

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Vermont, Microsoft partner to expand rural broadband

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said this week that the state will partner with Microsoft and local internet service providers to install mobile hotspots around the state to enable remote work, education and telemedicine, following the release of a study that found dozens of communities lacking any access to public Wi-Fi. Vermont’s Department of Public Service, Microsoft and RTO Wireless, a rural ISP, began the process of installing wireless hotspots across at least 38 towns throughout the state last week, and more than 50 communities have requested an installation. State broadband officials across the country have said stay-home orders issued due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 33,000 people in the U.S. so far, make life difficult for people who have inadequate broadband infrastructure, as many parts of Vermont do. Ryan Johnston has details.

Local cyber leaders emphasize policy, people

For chief information security officers in local government, emphasizing governance and processes of cyber hygiene can be as important as the technology itself. Stephanie Smith, the IT security director for Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, tells StateScoop her role takes her “a little outside" the normal realm of technology. “I work with policies, procedures and a lot of folks within the executive realm to develop the path forward as it relates to IT security,” Smith says on the fourth episode of StateScoop’s LocalSmart Awards podcast series. Smith was one of six city and county information security officers named as a LocalSmart Cybersecurity Leader of the Year in 2019. Listen to the podcast.

Cloudflare offers state and local governments free access to relieve overworked websites

Cloudflare announced this week it's granting state and local governments free access to some of its products as they try to keep their online services, like applications for unemployment benefits, afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company said it is offering a package of services that includes tools that help organizations block distributed-denial-of-service attacks and stay online when legitimate traffic is surging. Unemployment systems are struggling to keep up with the unprecedented levels of people applying for benefits, with 22 million people across the country filing initial jobless claims over the past month. “Essential websites that provide crucial information and updates on this pandemic may not have configured their systems to handle the massive surges in traffic they are currently seeing,” read a post on Cloudflare's corporate blog. Ben has more.


Minimizing cyber risk with improved data backup and recovery

Cyberthreats against state and local agencies are forcing leaders to fortify their defenses. To minimize the impact of ransomware attacks, leaders should look to implementing modernized data backup and recovery solutions, according to national security expert Rick Bryant. Agencies that use stronger measures to protect and backup their data before it’s attacked will be better prepared to recover operations quickly, he says. Hear more from the expert.

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