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Was there a ransomware pandemic dip?

The number of ransomware attacks against state and local governments and public education systems appeared to fall in the first half of 2020 compared to last year, with the bulk of the decline coinciding with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, cybersecurity researchers said yesterday. But as more public-sector employees have gone back to work, and with a new school year approaching, the rate of attacks has started to tick back up. “So many of the state and local governments were shut down, there were fewer opportunities,” said Recorded Future's Allan Liska. “You don’t have as many people to phish who can get you into the middle of the network. But, Liska cautioned, the brief decline in reported incidents could also been an effect of cybersecurity being overshadowed by the health crisis. Benjamin Freed reports.

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Smart911 gets a pandemic boost

Arkansas officials told StateScoop that COVID-19 has spurred public interest in emergency operations, especially a newer service that arms first responders with additional information about callers before they arrive to the scene. Officials said the service, called Smart911, offers an additional degree of safety when responding to house calls involves potential exposure to a deadly virus, in case the caller is in a quarantine protocol or has tested positive for the coronavirus. Overall use remains limited, but the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management said its Smart911 service has added about 3,000 new profiles since the start of the pandemic. Colin Wood reports.

Meet the head of Michigan's new mobility office

Last week, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer formally launched the state's new Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, tasked with developing policy around autonomous and connected vehicles. The office's new director, Trevor Pawl, told StateScoop in an interview that Michigan, home of the U.S. auto industry, will be the first state to align all its mobility programming and policymaking — currently spread across 135 agencies, commissions and advisory boards — under one roof. “Anything we do should focus on building a stronger state economy with safer, more equitable and environmentally sound transportation," he said. Ryan Johnston has more.

CISOs fear budget cuts

The arrival in March of the COVID-19 pandemic encouraged many states' government agencies to collaborate more closely with each other and with the private sector, especially on matters of cybersecurity, the CISOs of California and Washington state said on a new episode of StateScoop's "Priorities" podcast. Now, though, CISOs are bracing for the budget cuts brought on by the health crisis, which may lead to some tough choices for the agencies they're charged with defending. Listen to the podcast.

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