If you work
for a larger city, you might understand why hackers target it. The size of an
Atlanta, a Lexington, or a Little Rock attracts a lot of cybercriminals, but
those cities also spend a great deal on resources to defend themselves. We
often hear that hackers should consider smaller cities to be so inconsequential
that these cybercriminals wouldn’t bother attacking them.
only reports on the biggest hacking and data breach cases, leading many of us
to think that only large government organizations get attacked. But many data and
cybersecurity breaches occur at smaller cities that go mostly unreported and
So why do
hackers go after your small cities? Here’s why.
on your probable lack of security. For a quick assessment, ask the following
questions that we posed in a recent webinar:
More questions about the state of your cybersecurity? Reach out to us and we’ll help give you some answers.
If you owned
a restaurant where the power continually went out, fires constantly erupted in
the kitchen, and food always went bad, you could approach this problem in two
ways. You could mess with the wiring every time, use the fire extinguisher
every time, and throw out the bad food every time, doing the best you can to
work around these obstacles. Or, you could investigate and remedy the root
cause of the power outages, the fires, and the bad food so that these problems
went away for good.
you would choose the second approach. However, many cities unfortunately put up
with information technology that parallels the first approach. Servers fail.
Your website constantly goes down. Your tape backup never seems to work. Many
cities just put up with these ongoing problems, moving from fire to fire. And some
IT vendors are good at keeping many cities at the fire level, billing for these
constant, ongoing issues without ever really curing them for good.
of problems affect how you serve citizens and how much work your employees can
accomplish each day. Fighting fires every day is unwise for our restaurant
owner, and it’s unwise for your city. Here are some steps your IT staff or
vendor needs to take in order to cure your IT problems for good.
cities may think that spending money on continuous monitoring and maintenance
is expensive and overkill, especially when they don’t experience IT problems
anymore (which is good!), just think of our restaurant example. We’ve all
experienced certain businesses that just “get by” or eventually go out of
business if they can’t take care of their core problems. While cities can’t go
out of business, they can certainly inhibit good business by flailing around
with solvable IT problems. Put out your IT fires for good, instead of dealing
with a daily dose of fires every day.
about your city’s IT monitoring and alerting? Drop us a line.
important to prepare for disasters, many forms of data loss occur from common,
everyday scenarios. However, we find that many arguments for the importance of
data backup and disaster recovery focus on “big fear events” such as fire, tornado,
or flooding. True, those things do happen with enough frequency to be
concerned, but it’s often easier for cities to put off investing in data backup
because these scenarios seem rare and unlikely.
are more common data loss culprits. More situations exist that can literally
happen at any second that increase your city’s risk of data loss every day. If
you’re not protected against these extremely common scenarios, then you’re
placing your city’s data at extreme risk.
What kind of
data loss scenarios are most common? Here are just a few.
served cities for many many years, we can attest that these scenarios are
unfortunately common. Like insurance, cities need to protect their data and
ensure that city operations do not shut down merely because of a simple, common
event such as an employee mistake, virus, or server failure.
about data backup in more detail, please
it. Technology is often a pain, something you struggle against. You want your
employees productively working, you’ve got important city business to conduct,
and you’ve got that important city council meeting tonight. Like hitting your
head against an invisible brick wall, technology can often frustrate you and
prevent important tasks from getting done.
frustrating is that it’s like fighting an invisible enemy. Your IT staff or
vendor might give you overly technical reasons for any issues, but all you know
is that these issues are slowing down your progress—and possibly even losing
cases, this arises from reactive technology support where you’re always putting
out fires. Going deeper into the root causes, we find that the following issues
are usually the core of what’s wrong—and what you need to fix in order for the
fires to stop.
root causes are addressed, we find that many of the everyday battles and
struggles with technology almost miraculously go away. If you feel that only an
expensive technology investment can get rid of your current problems, many
times the opposite is true. Streamlining your technology and cutting out
inessential investments can help you only use what you need to run your city.
It’s also a time to consider transitioning many of your expensive technology
investments into the cloud, where they are often cheaper, better maintained,
and more efficient and secure.
about your everyday technology struggles in more detail, please contact us.
recently started offering verified page badges for state and local governments.
Verified page badges were originally created back in 2013 for celebrities and
well-known brands to reduce confusion, fraud, and duplicate content for Facebook
users while better protecting the reputation and credibility of celebrities and
rely more and more on social media as an important source of information, it
becomes clear that state and local governments are subject to the same problems
as celebrities and brands. This recent GovTech article provides a good summary of the release of Facebook’s new verified page feature for
state and local governments and how to verify your profile.
should you care? Here are some reasons why you need to establish and verify
your Facebook profile as soon as possible.
perspective, the verified Facebook pages for state and local government are an
overdue, necessary feature that helps citizens find important information and
connect better with the information your city broadcasts. But this also means
you need to step up your Facebook game as a city. Think about getting your
verified page badge, more regularly sharing important information on Facebook,
and engaging more with people on social media. That way, your city becomes even
more of a part of your citizens’ lives every day.
Questions about how this whole verification thing works? Send us a note and we’ll do our best to answer.
With technology so fast-paced today, cities are pressured more
and more to modernize their information technology. But investments in IT
infrastructure, websites, document management, and ongoing support all
typically add up to a lot of cost. However, the City of Jonesboro knew that it
needed a better website to engage citizens, securely stored documents following
state records retention schedules that were also accessible anytime/anywhere,
and proactive IT maintenance and support that lessened problems instead of just
reacting to fires.
In one fell swoop, the City of Jonesboro’s investment in IT
in a Box—which GMA constructed as one package to keep the costs of essential
city technology as low as possible—gave the city a new, more service-friendly
website, removed any worry as to the security and integrity of documents
needing to follow state records retention laws, and provided experienced IT
professionals that support the city without the costs of hiring additional
Ricky Clark, City Clerk at the City of Jonesboro, took the
time to discuss the importance of a website that engages citizens, documents
stored in the cloud, and even a “Taste of IT” that shows the human side of
GMA’s technology service.
It’s more welcoming and inviting, showing we are a
friendly, homelike city that’s deeply involved with our residents. The biggest
theme that I focused on with the website was transparency. When I arrived at
the city, we received a lot of phone calls about things that people should have
been able to easily to look up on the website. But the information just wasn’t
available. For a small municipality, the key to a tight knit government is having
a hands on approach with our residents. With that in mind, I tried to think of
any questions that citizens would ask or information that citizens would need. We
also included useful features like email notifications. Overall, we helped make
useful and important information more transparent and accessible 24/7/365. Having
this kind of website also helps with economic development because there are businesses
that may want to relocate to your city.
Before our new website, we had to send all of our content
to our website hosting provider and they posted it for us. That caused a
significant delay. With our current website, we upload our own content. No more
delays or waiting periods. If we have an emergency or special event that we
want to communicate immediately, we can post the information right away.
If we have an issue, we simply submit a ticket detailing
that issue just as if we had IT staff in house. The ticket is put into a queue
and then Sophicity’s engineers remedy or fix the problem. What’s neat is that they
can fix many issues remotely without traveling to our city. Plus, I like how
Sophicity provides us a single point of contact for all of our issues. That
makes it easy to communicate with them. We also have tracking capabilities and
can escalate an issue if it’s urgent.
Sophicity also knows which software vendors have state
contracts, and so they help us get hardware and software much cheaper than if
we were to purchase it from a retail store. Just recently, Sophicity helped us
get two printers for the cost of one. Plus, my staff doesn’t have time to call
different vendors to source any necessary hardware, software, equipment, and parts.
Sophicity does all of that for us.
We have a document repository stored in the cloud. That’s
where all of our information that used to be stored on our onsite mainframe
systems now resides. With the different document retention policies that I have
to follow as a city clerk, it’s important for me to know that our documents are
protected and have some form of integrity all of the time. Sophicity gave us an
offsite document repository to store all of our information, so we don’t have
to worry about losing documents if our building burned down.
It’s also much easier—and cheaper—to find and access documents.
For example, if someone asks me a question about minutes from a 1993 meeting, it’s
simple for me to just go onto the document repository online from anywhere and
retrieve those documents. No more looking through the paper minute books at the
office. Once a city digitizes its files and stores them in the cloud, the sky
is the limit as far as searching capability, access, and time savings.
Look at it from an analytical standpoint. Total up the
amount you are paying for IT infrastructure, document repositories, cloud
services, etc. and compare that cost to the cost you would pay per license with
IT in a Box. Think of someone’s salary and benefits, and then compare that cost
with IT in a Box where you don’t have to worry about additional personnel
Before you knock it, give it a try. At least get a
demonstration and see how things work. For example, the cost of a simple
website alone will be around $15,000-$20,000 or more depending on how complex
you want it. By contrast, IT in a Box provides cities a website and a lot of other
great software under one package. And those aspects of the IT in a Box package
are going to be the way governments are headed with their IT infrastructure
As cities know, it’s not possible to have 100% operational
uptime, so I feel the best way to handle that situation is to have someone
actually maintaining and monitoring your IT 24/7/365. With IT in a Box, you
only pay for licenses that you use under your specific plan—and you don’t pay
the full cost of salaries for the engineers that help you out.
To show their support for the day-to-day operations staff
at the city of Jonesboro, Sophicity drove down, brought hamburgers, hot dogs,
and plenty of other food, and cooked it up for us. It was not only a Taste of
IT, but it gave us the face of IT. We saw the faces of the people who were behind
making our systems operate from day to day. Our employees and elected officials
enjoyed it. Many times in city government, we work with companies but never see
them. We simply cut them checks. A Taste of IT proved that Sophicity goes above
and beyond to show that they’re thankful for our business. In my book, that
goes a long way.
camera technology becomes more talked about and implemented at cities, it’s
easy to focus only on the actual body cameras. But similar to buying and implementing
any shiny new toys—whether it’s new software or buying new computers—the
purchase of a new technology that’s integrated with an existing poor technology
infrastructure will only lead to frustration and risk.
A recent article in GovTech talks about this issue from a cloud
standpoint and brings up some important points. But for small and medium cities
with few staff and limited information technology resources, we feel there are
some higher-level, more basic questions that need to be asked.
to get excited about body camera technology, and it’s less exciting to think
about your boring, backend information technology. But without the right data
storage, retention policies, security, management, and data backup plan in
place, your body camera technology investment could become a gigantic waste or
risk a legal disaster. Body cameras are another sign that technology is
accelerating at light speed—so make sure your information technology is keeping
about body camera technology in more detail, please contact us.
To get the most eyeballs, the media will obviously publish headlines with the most sensational stories about cybercrime. It’s easy to read stories about the Sony hacking, the Target data breaches, or cyberterrorism worries from national governments and think that those are the most common nature of cyber-attacks. However, those kinds of events are rare. Additionally, such sophisticated hackers often go after very high profile targets’not your small- or medium-sized city.
This is an
important point because you’ll feel helpless if you think these are normal
security threats. You’ll feel that it’s too expensive to invest in data
security when it’s impossible to prevent the best cybercriminals from stealing
your information. But it’s the most common, everyday threats that actually
cause the most damage to cities. And you can prevent most of these threats with
relatively inexpensive information security investments.
worrying about the rare instances of governments or James Bond-level villains
coming after your city, you need to be worried more about the following
realistic, common security threats.
security threats are what you need to be most worried about. Every scenario
listed above is something that threatens you on a daily basis. And these are
security threats you can absolutely protect against. Most importantly, cyber
security is not just a technology issue. Experienced IT professionals must work
in tandem with city administrators to set and clarify policy, and employees must
be trained to detect basic security threats and only receive authorized access
to information. Worry about protecting yourself against 99% of the most common
security threats, instead of worrying about the rare 1%.
about cybersecurity in more detail, please contact us.
How much is your city at risk for a devastating security
breach or permanent data loss? Do you need a quick way to assess your current
In case you missed our Georgia Municipal Association (GMA)
presentation and live webinar on April 24, 2015, GMA has provided the audio recording and slides. Use this information to ask yourself:
While you probably hear stories in the news about security
breaches at large government organizations where data is stolen and often
permanently lost, know that this isn’t just a big government problem—it’s a major problem for small and medium cities.
In our webinar, we provide small city examples of real situations that can
cripple cities like yours.
Don’t become a victim to a security breach or lose your data
unnecessarily. Listen to our GMA webinar or review the presentation slides to assess if your city has cybersecurity gaps that make you vulnerable to attack.
As your city
grows or you buy more IT equipment, you might run into difficulties as the
entire setup starts to get a bit unwieldy. And with the plethora of now common
information technology items such as high-speed Internet, mobile devices (like
smartphones and tablets), and cloud computing, it becomes harder and harder to
identify how everything needs to be connected. For example:
information technology needs to grow along with an organization, it becomes
harder and harder to scale without the help of IT professionals who know how to
connect all of your hardware and software together. There are a few areas that
will impact your city negatively unless you have the proper IT support.
As you can
see, the multiplication of devices (desktop, laptop, mobile), software
applications, and remote worker needs has made information technology more and
more complex over the years—even for smaller cities. A small city used to be
able to get away with a few computers and some off-the-shelf software, but
today a setup like that introduces too much risk if something goes wrong. To
make your city operations hum along like clockwork, you need help and
assistance to connect all of your IT together and make sure that it’s
helping—not hindering—your productivity. And especially when new technologies
like body cameras will become required and standard for your cities, you want
to make sure your basic technology foundation is set up properly so that you
can scale and integrate new technologies with ease.
To talk about
IT connectedness in more detail, please contact us.
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