State lines

Working together. Thirteen states, led by New York, last month conducted a communications exercise that could lead to a multistate initiative to create an information sharing and analysis center.

The center, which would pool cyberthreat data gathered by states, is led by William Pelgrin, director of the New York City Office of Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure.

No formal center exists yet. During the dry run, participating states reported to a central location any suspicious activities they monitored on the Internet over the President's Day weekend.

'There was no malicious activity,' said Mike Russo, chief information security officer in Florida's state technology office. 'The exercise was about the communications and working relationships with the other states.'

Because sharing information about security threats and vulnerabilities is seen as essential to protect the nation's critical infrastructures, the federal government has encouraged the creation of such centers to share information in commercial sectors such as banking, public utilities and IT. It also encourages information sharing with federal agencies.

The centers serve as central collection points where data can be gathered and evaluated. Most such information is sanitized before distribution because of participating organizations' liability concerns.

Big D e-gov. The city of big hair and big hats is adopting e-government in a characteristically big way. Dallas' new Web portal lets residents pay water bills, renew driver's licenses, register to vote or report potholes online. The site links directly to the Texas state portal and shares a common infrastructure with it, including servers and network security.

The state outsourced www.texasonline.com to BearingPoint Inc. of McLean, Va., in May 2000, said Gary Miglicco, BearingPoint's national director for e-government services.

The site has been getting a 'relatively good response,' Dallas CIO Dan McFarland said. About 3 percent of the 300,000 water bills the city issues each month are being paid online, McFarland said. The site has both English and Spanish versions as well as an interactive city map.

Slammed. A worldwide virus that shut down Internet access as far away as South Korea last month interrupted online government services in America's heartland.

Indiana officials noticed a network slowdown at 10 a.m. CST on Feb. 22, Indiana CIO Laura Larimer said.

'At first we thought it was an equipment problem,' she said. It soon became clear that it was something else.

Indiana officials realized that the state's internal network had been hit by the SQL Slammer virus, which targeted a vulnerability in Microsoft 2000 SQL Server database software. Microsoft Corp. issued a patch last year.

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