Cloud Computing: Essential but challenging

An expert panel on the challenges and opportunities of public sector cloud computing featured Seattle IT Chief Technology Officer Michael Mattmiller. The panel was part of the Amazon Web Services Public Sector Innovation Summit June 13 in Washington D.C. To seize the opportunity presented by data analytics and data-driven governing, cities need to be in the cloud, according to panelists. One key opportunity in cloud computing is maximizing value and resources. Major challenges include security and privacy.

“Privacy is one of the areas that has made transitioning to the cloud challenging,” Mattmiller said. “It goes back to ‘what’s the problem we’re trying to solve?’ This idea of creating a data store where we put all kinds of different data, that is where our public gets concerned and where, as government, we see potential issues.”

In Washington state – which Mattmiller says has ‘one of the most progressive public disclosure laws in the nation’ – Seattle has taken care of making sure that the ‘full picture’ of a citizen’s data is never housed in one place to ensure that privacy remains intact. In May, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray also supported the creation of a new statute called the Seattle IT rule, which requires private companies to obtain permission before selling personal information or browsing data.

In addition, to prepare the City for more migration to the cloud and other digital services going forward, Seattle has hired its first smart city coordinator who starts in late July. This position will work with City agencies and citizens to evangelize the value of smart cities and the work that can be done.

Read the full article about the panel in State Scoop

Seattle City Light Employees Keep Their Information Locked Down

On the last day of 2016, The Washington Post reported that Russian hackers used an email “phishing” scam to attack the Burlington Electric Department in Vermont. The Post later followed up to say that the utility wasn’t actually a target of the scam, but a near-hack at a municipal utility was no surprise to City of Seattle IT professionals.

“That episode might’ve been a wake-up call to people outside the utility industry, but for those of us who work in critical infrastructure, it was just another example of a growing problem,” says Seattle IT Chief Information Security Officer Jeff Brausieck. “News stories like these are a good reminder to us all to maintain awareness and be extra careful not to open unknown or unexpected documents and web links received via email.”

Seattle City Light has long been aware of the threat posed by hacking. We have several strong cyber policies in place to protect City Light information and assets, such as:

  • Security measures: Firewalls, antivirus software and other security tools detect and block many types of cyber-attacks.
  • Password requirements: When setting up a password on a Seattle City Light computer, our employees can’t just “set it and forget it.” We’re required, by city and federal security standards, to periodically reset our passwords and keep them strong.
  • Information Security Awareness training: Our first line of defense is, of course, our City Light employees, who are trained to recognize and avoid phishy websites and emails, and to secure sensitive information in approved mechanisms like password-protected zip files.

These are just a few of the security measures Seattle City Light and the City of Seattle have in place to make sure that our, and our ratepayers’, Seattle City Light assets and information are kept out of hackers’ hands.