Workgroup to Consider Western Maryland Autonomous Tech Center

Governor Larry Hogan today announced a workgroup to consider the recommendations of a recent feasibility study on the development of a Western Maryland Autonomous Technology Center.

The study considered incorporating all types of autonomous technology, from drones to automated vehicles, as focal points of the training center.

According to the Cumberland Times-News:

As part of the feasibility study, the Maryland Transportation Institute at the University of Maryland evaluated the technical, economic and regulatory feasibility of a potential training center in Western Maryland. The study included identifying industry interest, analyzing market potential, selecting technology areas and determining facility needs.

The new work group will make recommendations based on the initial findings of the feasibility study, such as determining a potential site location, identifying possible funding sources and refining design and cost estimates for construction. The work group will also identify partnership opportunities and establish specific needs based on feedback from the entities that would use the facility.

The workgroup will also collaborate with local community colleges to develop workforce training programs and build relationships with local businesses.

Read the full article for more information.

Intel Advisory: Cyber Threat Actors Expected to Leverage Major Storms for Fraud

The Center for Internet Security (CIS), a MACo Partner, warns that malicious actors may leverage public interest during natural disasters to conduct financial fraud and disseminate malware.

Malicious actors leverage public interest during natural disasters and other high profile events to conduct financial fraud and disseminate malware – that according to The Center for Internet Security (CIS), a MACo Corporate Partner. The landfalls and impending landfalls of Hurricanes Florence, Isaac, and Helene, Tropical Storm Olivia, and Typhoon Mangkhut will highly likely propel the emergence of new and recycled scams involving financial fraud and malware.

According to CIS:

Malicious actors are notorious for posting links to fake charities and fraudulent websites that solicit donations for victims of natural disasters or deliver malware. The Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) previously observed similar scams and malware dissemination campaigns in response to high profile events including the Boston Marathon bombing, Hurricane Harvey, and the Tennessee wildfires. It is highly likely that more scams and malware will follow over the course of the recovery period, so Internet users need to exercise caution before opening related emails, clicking links, visiting websites, or making donations to relief efforts.

From September 6-11, 2018, the MS-ISAC observed an increase in registered domains likely related to Hurricane Florence. The most recently registered domains include the words, “claims,” “compensation,” “lawyers,” “relief,” and “funds,” which could indicate the domains use in possible scams or other malicious activity, so they should be viewed with caution. It is likely that these domain registrations will continue, especially after Hurricane Florence makes landfall. We believe that these domain registrations will also likely occur for the other storms.

It is highly likely that malicious actors will also capitalize on this disaster to send phishing emails with links to malicious websites advertising relevant information, pictures, and videos, but containing phishing web pages or malware. Other phishing emails are highly likely to contain links to, or attachments with, embedded malware. Victims who click on links or open malicious attachments risk compromising their computer.

User Recommendations

The MS-ISAC recommends that users adhere to the following guidelines when reacting to high profile events, including news associated with the disasters and solicitations for donations:

  • Users should exercise extreme caution when responding to individual pleas for financial assistance such as those posted on social media, crowdfunding websites, or in an email, even if it appears to originate from a trusted source. When making donations, users should consult the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information website for guidance or the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster website.
  • Be cautious of emails or websites that claim to provide information, pictures, and videos.
  • Do not open unsolicited (spam) emails or click on the links or attachments in those emails.
  • Never reveal personal or financial information in an email or to an untrusted website.
  • Do not go to an untrusted or unfamiliar website to view the event or information regarding it.
  • Malicious websites often imitate a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com vs .org) so ensure the link goes to the correct website.

Technical Recommendations

The MS-ISAC recommends that technical administrators adhere to the following guidelines when reacting to high profile events, including news associated with any of these disasters, and solicitations for donations:

  • Issue warnings to users about potential scams, implement filters on emails, block suspicious IP addresses and domains at your firewall and on your web server proxy, and flag emails from external sources with a warning banner
  • Use antivirus programs on clients and servers, with automatic updates of signatures and software.
  • Apply appropriate patches and updates immediately after appropriate testing.

More information regarding emergency preparedness for cyber infrastructure is available in the associated MS-ISAC Security Primer.

MACo members have a great resource available to them to help address this and other cybersecurity related issues: the Center for Internet Security (CIS). Through MACo’s partnership with CIS, members have access to a number of cost-effective resources to improve their employees’ security awareness, including industry-leading training programs from the SANS Institute, as well as social engineering and phishing exercises, and expert-led training seminars.

Learn more about CIS benefits for MACo members.

Commission to Advance #NG9-1-1 Set to Convene

The Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 Across Maryland, a 2018 MACo Legislative Initiative that will help Maryland prepare for the deployment of a statewide Next Generation 9-1-1 system that our residents expect and deserve, will hold its first meeting on Thursday, September 20, 2018, at 10 am in the Joint Hearing Room in Annapolis.

Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 Across Maryland bill signing ceremony. (Photo credit: Executive Office of the Governor)

Maryland residents demand and expect 9-1-1 emergency service to be reliable and efficient. Next-generation technology is required to keep up with this increasingly complex public safety function – improving wireless caller location, accommodating incoming text/video, and managing crisis-driven call overflows.

Maryland must accelerate its move toward NG9-1-1, deliver these essential services equitably across the state, and assure effective coordination with communications providers.

The Commission will examine the strategic aspects of NG911 implementation in coordination with the existing efforts of the Emergency Number Systems Board (ENSB), with a particular emphasis on addressing areas outside of the statutory responsibilities of the ENSB. The Commission will study and make recommendations for the implementation, technology, funding, governance, and ongoing statewide development of NG911 to the Governor and Maryland General Assembly.

Counties encourage efforts to enhance emergency communications in Maryland. The Commission exemplifies a statewide effort to guide this critical transition, harnessing public safety industry leadership and expertise to address complex public safety concerns.

MACo’s Legislative Committee voted at their September 12, 2018 meeting to adopt the Association’s four priorities for the 2019 Session. Updating state laws, and the 9-1-1 financing system, to provide the flexibility and resources needed for the transition to NG9-1-1, will again be a top priority for county governments.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Hogan Signs MACo’s 9-1-1 Initiative Bill

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Counties Gather Answers for the Call for Next Generation 9-1-1 Service

HB 634/SB 285 of 2018

Cecil Enhances Security, Wi-Fi at Calvert Regional Park

Calvert Regional Park (photo courtesy of Cecil County Government)

Visitors to Calvert Regional Park can now enjoy the benefits of no-fee Wi-Fi service, as well as an added sense of security as Cecil County recently updated and implemented new technology at the facility.

According to a press release:

Seven (7) wifi access points will provide coverage to the main activity field, the adjacent activity fields to the east and west in the main park, as well as additional coverage for the parking lot, basketball courts, and the field located at the end of the parking lot.

To fortify more comprehensive security measures, twenty-four (24) high resolution cameras were installed on existing poles and structures, while three (3) of the existing cameras were moved to more strategic locations. Additionally, infrared illuminators were installed to provide night vision capability to all of the 180-degree cameras. New poles were put in for the west field access points and at the playground, while two (2) poles and lights were also added to the basketball courts.

“I am proud that IT can contribute to the safety of our citizens and to our out-of-county visitors at Calvert Regional Park,” commented Brian Miller, Cecil County’s Director of Information Technology (IT). “Tournament directors, families, friends and players expect to have internet access and a safe enjoyable environment when visiting a complex. These upgrades will allow the Parks & Rec department to provide additional services during their events.

“We are grateful for the collaboration with IT to make our facilities more safe and secure for our county residents and visitors,” said Parks & Recreation Director Clyde Van Dyke. “A more user-friendly Wi-Fi will heighten the experience and the services we provide for everyone as well.”

The project was partially funded using a $125,000 Program Open Space grant to defer a portion of the costs.

Calvert Regional Park, located at 304 Brick Meeting House Road in North East, consists of a synthetic turf multi-purpose field, basketball courts, 11 natural grass, multi-purpose fields, a one-mile paved trail, playgrounds, paved parking and is available for community use and tournament rental.

Read the full press release for more information.

Don’t Let Your First Responders’ Data Hose Run Dry When It Is Needed Most

More than ever before, first responders rely on high speed data technologies to manage emergencies. But what happens when their data pipeline is reduced during a crisis situation? A Route Fifty article (2018-08-27) provided a stark example and highlighted the importance of county first responders and IT officers to check their data service contracts. The issue arose when Verizon throttled back the broadband data rates of a county fire department in California as it was fighting several wildfires. From the article:

Santa Clara County Fire Department officials say vehicles they were using as they battled the Pawnee Fire in Lake County, as well as the Mendocino Complex Fire, which is the largest ever to burn in California, had broadband speeds slowed, or “throttled,” to the point that data was flowing at speeds on par with the service from an “AOL dial up modem from 1995.” …

When department leadership reached out to Verizon to inform them “that throttling was actively impeding County Fire’s ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services,” their representative told them to upgrade their plans and to call a customer service line to buy additional data, according to emails included in court documents filed this week by 23 state attorneys general regarding the Federal Communications Commission’s rollback of net neutrality rules.

In the article, Verizon responded that public sector data plans contain data speed limits like any other customer contract. Verizon acknowledged that the customer representative’s response was “a mistake” and that first responders can contact Verizon before or during a major emergency to ensure high data speeds are available. The major emergency must be “verified” by Verizon and the article questioned how this policy would apply to an unforeseen or rapidly occurring incident, such as a terrorist attack or mass shooting.

The article also reported on the current competition for first responder customers between Verizon and AT&T. Both companies have undertaken network projects (FirstNet by AT&T, which was authorized by Congress, and a dedicated public safety core network by Verizon) to cater to federal, state, and local emergency response needs.

Conduit Street Podcast: Live at #MACoCon with Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Michael Sanderson and Kevin Kinnally are joined by Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger for a live recording at MACo’s Summer Conference in Ocean City, Maryland. Listen in to hear about how Congressman Ruppersberger’s experience in local government affect his decision-making on Capitol Hill, the importance of municipal bonds, an update on election security, and more!

Listen here:

MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.

Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger is serving his eighth term in the United States House of Representatives for the citizens of Maryland’s 2nd District. Maryland’s 2nd District includes parts of Baltimore City as well as Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Harford and Howard Counties.

Representative Ruppersberger, who served as MACo President in 1996 while in office as Baltimore County Executive, has served in public office for more than 30 years. He was elected to the Baltimore County Council in 1985 and again in 1989, chosen twice as council chairman. He was elected Baltimore County Executive in 1994 and 1998, and, under his leadership, the county was named one of the nation’s four best-managed counties by Governing Magazine.

Known as a consensus builder on Capitol Hill, Ruppersberger has led the fight to protect tax-exempt municipal bonds, the most important tool in the United States for financing state and local infrastructure including schools, hospitals, water, sewer facilities, public power utilities, roads, and mass transit.

#MACoCon Sheds Light on “Dark” Data

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. – Sherlock Holmes

“Big data” receives a lot of attention among policy wonks and elected officials for its power to make government operations more efficient. While big data and analytics play an increasingly important role in developing strategies and informing decision making in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, local governments face barriers in acquiring and using such data.

That’s where “dark data” comes in.

On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, from 3:15 pm to 4:15 pm, data experts presented on exactly how counties can best access dark data: big data that is collected but not fully utilized.  During the MACo Summer Conference special session, “Still Waters Run Deep: Dive Into Your Dark Data Potential,” attendees learned about data resources available from various state and federal agencies – and how to make use of that data to inform economic development and government operations decisions.

Cory Stottlemyer, Senior Policy Analyst, Maryland Department of Transportation Office of Planning & Capital Programming, provided an overview of growth trends in population, labor force, and employment, and applied them to current commuting patterns within Maryland. Nearly 80 percent of residents in Charles County commute out of the county for work every day, for example – and some go as far as Frederick County every day! It is important for economic development experts and the private sector, as well as transportation planners, to understand where people live and work, and how that is changing, before incentivizing and developing where people live and work.

Benjamin Birge, CountyStat Manager, Office of the County Executive, Prince George’s County showed how counties use data to make their decisions currently. While data sets may be less plentiful to some local government jurisdictions than, say, the federal government, local leaders can still use data in daily decision-making if exercising an ounce of creativity. Birge demonstrated how his team used Census data to try to understand drivers behind grocery store chain site selection. Want a Trader Joe’s? Don’t bother asking them what they are looking for – instead, ask Ben Birge.

Gary V. Hodge, President, Regional Policy Advisors, and former Executive Director, Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland, and Charles County Commissioner led a discussion on how data can drive policy decisions – and, policy decisions can drive data-mining. At the end of the day, data can entirely, 100 percent, prove the viability and necessity of a transportation project – like the proposed Charles County Light Rail. However, without political will, data does nothing.

The session was moderated by the Honorable Jeff Ghrist of the Maryland House of Delegates.

The 2018 MACo Summer Conference was held August 15-18 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year’s theme was “Water, Water Everywhere.”

Smart Talks on 5G Technology and Small Cells at #MACoCon

“On average each household has 13 connected wireless devices. In the near future it is estimated that each household will have upward of 50 connected wireless devices.” – Michelle Painter, Sprint

Attendees of the MACo Summer Conference session “Surf’s Up! Small Cell Tsunami” got a double dose of information from two prominent groups of players on the small cell field: (1) wireless service  and infrastructure providers and (2) local government attorneys.

Michelle Painter (Sprint) and LaTara Harris (AT&T)
Michelle Painter (Sprint) and LaTara Harris (AT&T)

A panel of wireless services and infrastructure providers shared their perspective on the importance the advancement of small cell technology will have on Maryland and how they are working to deploy the technology around the state. The speakers included Michelle Painter, Counsel and Government Affairs for Sprint; Genese N. Thomas, Network Real Estate for Verizon Wireless; Richard Rothrock, Government Relations Manager for Crown Castle; and LaTara Harris, Regional Director of External Affairs for AT&T.

Richard Rothrock (Crown Castle)
Richard Rothrock (Crown Castle)

Painter provided an overview of what small cells and the future of 5G technology can bring to a community. She also brought an example of a Sprint small cell. Rothrock highlighted the role infrastructure developers play and the successful collaborations they’ve had with local governments. Thomas shared a video and some points explaining how small cells work. And Harris outlined four pillars of what is being sought through statewide legislation: (1) streamlined application processes; (2) shot clocks; (3) reasonable fees; and (4) appropriate access to the right of way. Statewide legislation was introduced last session, but a hearing on the bill did not occur. It is anticipated that some form of statewide legislation will be introduced last session.

Johnny Mautz (Maryland House of Delegates)
Johnny Mautz (Maryland House of Delegates)

A panel of local government attorneys from Baltimore City and Montgomery County shared need to know information about a county’s role in small cell approval and implementation as well as lessons they’ve learned working on small cell regulation within their respective jurisdictions. The speakers included Victor Tervala, Chief Solicitor of Legal Advice & Opinions for the Baltimore City Department of Law; and Jeffrey Zyontz, Senior Legislative Analyst for the Montgomery County Council.

Victor Tervala (Baltimore City)
Victor Tervala (Baltimore City)

Tervala shared four principles local officials need to consider: (1) you cannot prohibit or effectively prohibit the deployment of small cells; (2) you cannot discriminate between services providers providing the same service; (3) you have to allow competition to address gaps in services; (4) you cannot regulate small cells on the basis of health concerns.

Jeffrey Zyontz (Montgomery County)
Jeffrey Zyontz (Montgomery County)

Zyontz went through a list of specific issues counties should consider as owners of the public right of way. These included: the differences between public utilities and the telecom industry; regulation through zoning and through franchise agreements; bonding and insurance coverage; fees charged for access and use; authority over property you own in the right of way and property owned by someone else in your right away.

The session was moderated by Delegate Johnny Mautz and held on Wednesday, August 15 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland.

Calibrating the Compass: Using GIS for Faster 9-1-1 Response

From left to right, Senator Cheryl Kagan, Jack Markey, Matthew Sokol, Kathy Lewis, and Patrick Callahan

Most 9-1-1 centers determine a mobile caller’s location based on technology that was adopted two decades ago…before cell phones were equipped with GPS. Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) will deliver more accurate location data – similarly to how apps like Uber can pinpoint your exact location – which will allow calls to be routed to the correct jurisdictions faster, potentially saving lives. NG911 will rely on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for call routing, call handling, call delivery, location validation, and emergency response.

During the 2018 MACo Summer Conference panel “Calibrating the Compass: GIS in a Next Gen 9-1-1 World” attendees learned best practices for assessing, planning, and developing maintenance routines to keep GIS data NG911 compliant.

Jack Markey, Director, Division of Emergency Management, Frederick County, began the session by providing an overview of GIS and NG911. Mr. Markey also discussed why GIS will be critical to the transition to NG911 and the intersection of the “old world” and the “new world” of public safety communications.

Kathy Lewis, GIS Specialist, Fire and EMS Communications, Charles County, talked about some of the challenges counties face with GIS. She also discussed 1Spatial – GIS diagnostic software purchased by the ENSB (Emergency Numbers System Board) and made available to each Maryland county by the Maryland Department of Information Technology (DoIT) and MapSAG – GIS diagnostic software purchased by individual jurisdictions as part of procurement of the ESINet package.

Jack Markey, Director, Division of Emergency Management, Frederick County

Matthew Sokol, GIS Program Manager, Maryland Department of Information Technology, discussed the platform provided by the State for NG911 data validation, correction, and standardization. Mr. Sokol also talked about the importance of providing a centralized platform for data validation, correction, and standardization.

Patrick Callahan, GIS Manager, Office of Information Technology, Prince George’s County and Chair, Maryland State Geographic Information Committee (MSGIC), concluded the panel by discussing the role of MSGIC as a conduit between state and local governments. Mr. Callahan also described the role of MSGIC in ensuring GIS compliance and the work that MSGIC is doing to help Maryland transition to a statewide NG911 network.

The session was moderated by Senator Cheryl Kagan and was held on Thursday, August 16. The 2018 MACo Summer Conference was August 15-18, 2018 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, MD. This year’s theme was “Water, Water Everywhere.”

State Board of Elections Aims to Boost Election Cyber Security

The Maryland State Board of Elections (SBE) will spend about $7.4 million to improve election security. Although there won’t be any substantive changes before November’s gubernatorial election, SBE plans to upgrade its systems and software in time for elections in 2020.

Federal officials warned earlier this year that Russia remains interested in disrupting elections after a multipronged effort to interfere two years ago. Although United States Department of Homeland Security notified Maryland that is was one of 21 states with suspicious online activities before the election, there’s no evidence that Maryland’s election systems or voter data were breached or compromised.

According to the Frederick News-Post:

After questions arose in April about the 2016 election and whether Maryland’s election systems were hacked, the Board of Elections received approximately $7 million in federal funds to make election security improvements. The state was required to match 5 percent of those funds, bringing the total to slightly more than $7.4 million to be spread across categories including voting equipment, election auditing, voter registration and management systems, cyber vulnerabilities, training and communication.

In a report from the Board of Elections to state lawmakers, the board said it has earmarked about $3.5 million, nearly half of the federal funds, to identify and mitigate cyber vulnerabilities. The funds will be used to hire an information security expert, upgrade equipment and software, implement two-factor authentication on workstations and automate the state’s patch management process, according to the report.

SBE has also earmarked $1 million for upgrading voter registration equipment and software and $1.5 million for cybersecurity upgrades and training for election security personnel.

Counties administer and fund elections at the local level, overseeing polling places and coordinating poll workers every two years.

MACo has partnered with the SBE and local boards of elections to maintain the integrity of state and local election systems and data. This collaborative effort will promote best practices and information sharing to protect the systems and data we use to conduct elections.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: MACo Partners with State & Local Boards of Elections to Improve Election Security

Read the Full Article from the Frederick News-Post