How a rapid move to remote work refined cyber in local government

For cybersecurity leaders in local governments across the U.S., the rapid move to remote work marked a big shift in information security operations, especially in smaller departments with limited resources.

“You know the word challenge, challenging is an understatement,” Chris Mitchell, Houston’s chief information security officer, says on the latest episode of StateScoop’s LocalSmart Awards podcast.

When Houston city staff went home in March to work remotely as the pandemic spread across the U.S., Mitchell says he had to balance the need to maintain the security of the city’s assets while navigating an expanded threat landscape that reached all the way to employees’ homes.

When the pandemic hit in full force, Oakland County, Michigan, CISO T.J. Fields was only five months into his time in the role.

“We went from a county whose explicit policy was ‘you need to be in your seat to get paid’ to a county that was about 90% remote work,” Fields says on the podcast. “Certainly a large portion of my role for the first few months of the COVID lockdown we continued to refine our controls, and ever since it’s definitely been a challenge.”

On the podcast:

  • Geoff Brown, CISO, New York City
  • T.J. Fields, CISO, Oakland County, Michigan
  • Brian Gardner, CISO, Dallas, Texas
  • Jerry Keely, CISO, Pinal County, Arizona
  • James Meece, CISO, Louisville, Kentucky
  • Chris Mitchell, CISO, Houston, Texas
  • Karen Pratt, cybersecurity officer, Washington County, New York

Things to listen for:

  • In New York City, Geoff Brown kept his team focused on the guiding principles of New York City Cyber Command as they responded to the pandemic. Doing so kept his team focused on the mission, he says.
  • Both Gardner and Keely say they are emphasizing zero trust in their operations going forward.
  • For Louisville, modernization remains a key priority to strengthen cyber operations.
  • Cybersecurity education and training will play an even bigger role in local government cyber in a world with more remote work.
  • Even in a remote world, culture remains a key challenge to cybersecurity leaders and adapting to new technologies and the cybersecurity challenges they present.

The LocalSmart podcast is a five-part miniseries highlighting the winners of the 2020 LocalSmart Awards.

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