Category Archives: Latest News

Evolving Cyberthreats Lead to Evolved Cybersecurity

With more people working from home, cybersecurity is more important than ever. Threat actors are becoming increasingly bold in their attacks and ransomware continues to be the preferred method of infiltration. Cybersecurity experts, however, are also adapting with the times by focusing on a previously overlooked aspect of ransomware attacks: dwell time.

According to cybersecurity news outlet Dark Reading, “dwell time” refers to “the length of time an interloper remains undetected inside the network.” They note that traditionally, ransomware attacks operate under “smash-and-grab” tactics. Where, once downloaded, malicious files attempt to encrypt as many files and workstations as possible. Now, though, these files are lingering, allowing operators to lurk in the shadows of a targeted network, studying how it operates and identifying valuable resources to exploit or hijack for bigger payoffs. Read more >

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Don’t Get Duped When Upgrading Your Utility Infrastructure

American City & County magazine recently published an article detailing the misadventures of Jackson, Mississippi’s attempt to upgrade their water meter and billing systems after signing a contract with Siemens, Inc. The contract (signed in December of 2012) was supposed to generate 120 million dollars in guaranteed savings. However, incorrectly installed water meters and syncing issues with the city’s wireless networks led to residential customers being heavily overcharged while some industrial customers never even received a bill. The city’s attempts to rectify these problems led to increased operating costs and no savings, despite Siemen’s guarantee.

Unsurprisingly, the City of Jackson sued Siemens and local subcontractors over the debacle. Read more >

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Schools Are Essential, Too

Despite the myriad of challenges that have arose in this doozy of a year, there have been a few net positives that have come along with it. Many essential services have remained functional or quickly adapted thanks to technological advances and the ease of remote work. Groups like the NLC have been lobbying for better municipal funding to improve existing local infrastructure, and long overdue conversations regarding policing and broader criminal justice reforms have become part of the cultural zeitgeist. Perhaps most importantly, though, is the way in which many schools have used the summer to come up with new ways to educate children and keep them safe at the same time. Read more >

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Big Data for Small Cities

US House Passes Moving Forward Act in a Bid to Improve Local Broadband Infrastructure

As a part of their Rebuild With Us campaign, the National League of Cities (NLC) announced that the US House of Representatives recently passed the Moving Forward Act, a bill designed to increase federal investment in broadband infrastructure on a municipal level. While the bill also includes investments in public safety, broadband consumer protections, affordability and digital equity, there is a significant focus on new provisions to help smaller cities that might be struggling. These provisions include building new or updating existing broadband infrastructure, allowing more flexibility when it comes to investing in local broadband, and prioritizing connectivity for rural areas. Read more >

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Cities Are Essential

According to the National League of Cities (NLC), despite the massive spending bills passed by Congress designed to aid states in battling the coronavirus outbreak, “there has been no direct aid provided to the majority of cities, towns and villages.” This is particularly concerning considering that the frontline for subduing the effects of the virus occurs primarily at the local level.

While businesses are beginning to reopen across the nation after a long shut down, local governments have continued to provide essential services because, as James Inman, City Manager for Bessemer City, NC notes in Southern City Magazine, “the water has to flow.”

Things might seem like they are getting back to normal, but the economic impact of coronavirus shutdowns cannot be understated for local governments. Read more >

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Workforce Confidence Index Poll Reflects Both Optimism and Worry

According to a recent Workforce Confidence Index poll conducted by LinkedIn, most people have an optimistic view about their ability to effectively work remotely, while a slightly smaller portion thinks their entire industry can. This is good news considering remote work is expected to stay, even as states slowly roll back economic restrictions due to COVID-19. The highest rates of optimism are found, unsurprisingly, in the software and IT sectors, followed closely by finance, media and communications. Public administration employees rank somewhere in the middle while tourism and retail bring up the rear. The results also show skepticism in other industries with an emphasis on in-person interaction, such as healthcare and manufacturing. Read more >

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The Importance of Civic Engagement Now More Than Ever

According to the National Research Center (NRC), data collected by the National Community Survey over the last 15 years shows that nearly 80% of residents expect their governments to provide opportunities for community engagement. But with most government offices closed and employees working from home due to the spread of COVID-19 and the adoption of social distancing guidelines, attending a board meeting or town hall is virtually impossible. The timing couldn’t be worse either since civic engagement is now more crucial than ever. As Senior Vice President of Innovation at Polco, Michelle Kobayashi, tells the NRC: “finding ways to connect with people when they are socially isolated…gives people a sense of empowerment…a sense of things they can do to make them feel like they have some control over the situation.”

Luckily, 90% of American adults are active online and the amount of public sector organizations using online tools to gather feedback is on the rise. Read more >

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Bringing Our Best to Overcome Adversity

The world has always been crazy, but we live in truly unprecedented and uncertain times. There’s no need to beat anyone over the head with current events because it’s obvious that life is exceptionally tough for a lot of people right now. Yet, while it’s easy to focus on how bad things are or wonder how they could get worse, one thing is certain: trust is key in getting through this pandemic. Not necessarily trust in “the system”, but trust in ourselves, each other, and the tools we use to make life easier.

Amidst the chaos of the news cycle, there are a few examples of this crisis bringing out the best in the corporate world. Read more >

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Will Electronic Voting Improve or Hamper an Already Fragile Process?

Tablets, phones, and mobile devices are everywhere. We use them to read, take notes, and even place orders at restaurants. Their portability and ease-of-use have helped them become a vital part of everyday processes in the private sector. And while the public sector has traditionally been slower to implement new technologies, the convenience of mobile devices has spurred government agencies into readily adopting them. The corresponding increase in efficiency and transparency has even led to public agencies incorporating mobile technology into council, board, and committee meetings; making it easier to record minutes, disperse agendas, and share information. But could the same technology be used for voting? Read more >

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The Problem of Advanced Artificial Intelligence

The concept of artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for decades with people pondering its philosophical implications the entire time. From the stories of Isaac Asimov in the 50s to modern television series like Westworld, humanity seems obsessed with both the potential and danger associated with sentient technology. And, unlike the prospect of flying cars, the discussion over AI is now more relevant than ever.

There are two primary camps in the debate over AI: the pessimists and optimists, which can be represented by folks like former presidential candidate Andrew Yang or MIT research scientist Lex Fridman respectively. Yang recently brought the idea of automation displacing American workers in the trucking industry into the national spotlight. Read more >

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