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Washington state's pandemic cybersecurity

For the past six weeks, Vinod Brahmapuram, the statewide chief information security officer for the State of Washington, has started his workdays by meeting with the CISOs who work within the state’s many agencies. The difference between these meetings and the ones he convened before, of course, is that they’re all taking place virtually as the bulk of state employees work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Brahmapuram, speaking yesterday on a webinar with Microsoft cybersecurity executive Tom Burt, said the state government was prepared to adapt to a stay-at-home lifestyle thanks to early planning and a liberal telework policy implemented in 2018. Every state employee working from home is required to access the government’s networks through a virtual private network, and IT officials are also making greater use of multi-factor authentication, threat intelligence platforms and other tools, he said. Benjamin Freed reports.

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COVID-19 amplified states' IT deficits

State IT systems for managing social benefits like unemployment insurance, Medicaid and food assistance are facing unprecedented demand due to mass layoffs caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but the crisis has highlighted a stark divide between governments that have pushed to modernize in recent years and those that have not. While the public health measures causing the layoffs are unprecedented, they are only amplifying problems already existed, according to Tracey Patterson, the director of Code for America's social safety net programs. "What we’re seeing in this crisis is a magnification of the conditions that were there before," Patterson said on a webinar hosted by the group. Ryan Johnston reports.

911 services are changing, rapidly

Emergency responders are taking on expanded roles during the COVID-19 pandemic — from scheduling grocery deliveries to quarantined residents to triaging patients over video chat, revealing the hidden value of emergency operators and possibly giving a preview of how their roles may change, 911 communications directors said in a webinar Thursday. “Throw the old 911 out the window,” said Tyrell Morris, executive director of the Orleans Parish Communication District in Louisiana. Morris' agency is trying to serve the 400,000 residents of New Orleans, the site of one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the United States. Morris said the introduction of video chat and text-to-911 have been useful tools in triaging calls to determine whether people should be taken to a hospital or instead advised to self-quarantine — or if they need something else entirely, like food delivery. Colin Wood reports.

Everything you wanted to know about digital transformation

Digital transformation, the never-ending process of upgrading old computer systems and business processes with more modern and efficient ones, is an esoteric subject that the public usually only hears about when something goes wrong or a long-gestating project blows past its deadline and budget. In a new package, StateScoop and EdScoop reporters dive into digital transformation, looking at why motor-vehicles departments always seem to struggle with big tech projects, the disappearance of traditional IT from college campuses, how the COVID-19 pandemic will set back governments' transformation plans for years to come and a guide to the foundational steps of modernization. Read the full report.

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