Summary by Gary Leaf, Chief Information Officer (CIO), King County Housing Authority
Year two of our CIO Convening saw 30 attendees representing 26 Housing Authorities in attendance. Not surprisingly, much of our discussions focused on security, both cyber and physical in nature.
Our day one keynote came from Serena Reynolds of the Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity and infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Ms. Reynolds outlined the myriad of free services offered by her organization. These include free technical assistance, incident response teams for state and local governments, and intrusion detection services. She warned that one of the biggest threat vectors on the horizon comes from the growing number of “Smart” devices aka, Internet of Things (IoT).
Thomas Amershek, Sr. Manager of Emerging Technologies at Verizon Business Group, shared a deep dive into 5G. He dispelled some of the marketing hype surrounding delivery dates for this technology. The bottom line is that until a killer app comes along, we don’t need to make plans to invest in all new equipment for a few years. He did say that some PHAs may wish to entertain leasing roof space to 5G carriers as this new technology requires a denser antenna pattern than 4G.
Andrea Galloway, Director of Technology Management & Innovation at the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, facilitated a panel discussion on Connect Home. Panelists included Jason Colón, IT Manager at the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority and Bobby Coulter, Sr. Manager of ITS at the Fresno Housing Authority. Connect Home is a program aimed at providing Internet connectivity to residents. It can be a complex and expensive undertaking depending on how it is rolled out. It was described as a three-legged stool: Internet, devices, and technical training – none of which come with funding. However, agencies are leveraging community and educational partnerships to support this effort.
Terri Jones, Enterprise Advisor at Hyland Software Inc., shared her perspectives on what it takes for an organization to go digital. Ms. Jones warned us not to just create a digital file cabinet. Rather, she suggested we take the opportunity to review our forms and business processes to remove waste before implementing any technology. Benefits including cost savings, improved compliance, and reduced risk help create what Terri describes as her “Paperless Nirvana” where information is at the ready, available in the field, encrypted and secure and promotes automation and aids the audit process.
Jay Leslie, Director of Information Technology at the Cambridge Housing Authority, shared his thoughts on network security best practices. Mr. Leslie warned that 94% of all malware comes from email. This sparked a lively story of intrusions at many attending PHAs and advice that multifactor authentication is a valuable line of defense when network credentials are phished. Mr. Leslie advised against providing too much information in “Out of Office” messages as the bad guys monitor this kind of information.
Our day two keynote came from Jeremy Greenland, Special Agent, National Security Cyber from the Washington Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. SA Greenland updated the group on the current threat vectors and gave his “personal” views on several cyber-related issues. He noted that Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes that use various scenarios to extract money from their victims offshore those funds primarily to China and Hong Kong.
Luis Yataco, Director of Information Technology at the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, facilitated a panel discussion on building access and security camera systems. Panelists were Steve McDowell, CIO at Seattle Housing Authority, and Richard Congo, Director/CIO, of the Information Technology Department at the District of Columbia Housing Authority. Mr. Congo brought in one of his staff, Dwight Francis, Special Projects Manager, to explain their security camera implementation. They call security cameras life safety systems to make them seem less threatening. Mr. Francis provided many best practices and insights from camera selection and placement to video history retention advice and chain of custody guidelines. Mr. McDowell described the fully integrated building access and security camera system in use at his PHA.
Mr. Congo shared his thoughts on backups and disaster recovery. He advised to think of backups as insurance and that cloud storage doesn’t necessarily mean cloud backups, and he iterated the importance of periodic file restoration and validation of critical data.
Finally, Eunice Barthelemy, IT Project Manager of the Information Technology Department at te District of Columbia Housing Authority, shared details about a new software subscription service from Verbosity. Ms. Barthelemy described how DCHA plans to engage with their residents, manage small project schedules, provide emergency communications to staff and residents, and integrate with mapping and geocodes – all via smartphones. There were lots of questions and a promise for a review of this tool at next year’s gathering.