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Inside Delaware’s cybersecurity moves, from digital government to Shields Up

Do you know what cybersecurity resources and platforms are (or will be) available in Delaware? Here's a primer on how state gov is thinking about digital protection.

The Capitol Building in downtown Dover.

(Courtesy photo)

Cybersecurity, which accounts for about 3,000 tech jobs in Delaware, can make your life easier — and not just because of what it prevents.

On the state level, cybersecurity is there to keep residents safe and to protect privacy. But it also makes it possible to greatly simplify resident interaction with state departments, including the DMV and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

Like many states, Delaware is in the process of establishing a digital government platform. While that doesn’t necessarily make it unique, Delaware is ahead of average, scoring a B+ in Center for Digital Government’s most recent Digital States Survey in 2020. The results noted that the Delaware Department of Technology and Information (DTI) pushes to use technology for the public good with the 2019 launch of the Delaware One Stop platform, where business owners can interact with multiple state agencies via one website.

A planned resident-facing website — one where residents can sign in using a state-issued secure code and use services from all state agencies via a single website — will complete the first step in digital government in Delaware.

“People want to stand online, not in line,” Gregory Lane, Delaware’s chief technology officer, told Technical.ly. He compares the in-development digital government platform to Amazon, where purchases from multiple vendors are seamlessly consolidated.

A planned resident-facing website will complete the first step in digital government in Delaware.

“Look at all the merchandisers that you can interact with on Amazon — but you log on once and you pay for everything in your shopping cart,” Lane said. “We’re transforming government. So you can purchase a park pass from the Department of Natural Resources and apply for a new driver’s license with the DMV in one place, and you make one payment. Let technology navigate government.”

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The key to making such a platform a cyber-secure reality is that secure key code that will allow them to sign on and access their accounts.

“We’re trying to make systems in a way that we can use the same security of a [state employee] ID,” Lane said. “So from a technical standpoint, it’s managing identities, enabling a set of credentials and controlling what you have access to with those credentials.”

Since many dealings with the state government involve fee payments, the security of those transactions are also an important component. The goal is to make payments easy and modern, he said, and seamless across agencies.

Previously, different agencies used completely different platforms.

“Ultimately, the goal and a vision of digital government is to create a common look and feel with shared services that allow for smoother frictionless experience for the users, meaning residents and visitors,” said Rob Nicholson, innovation program lead for Delaware DTI. “Digital government has a tendency to streamline all of that stuff.”

Protecting personal privacy

The streamlined platform needs to protect privacy, another facet of cybersecurity that is sometimes buried under the more sensational cyberthreats like ransomware attacks and phishing expeditions.

Virginia-based ID.me, a private company with government clients that once included the IRS (and currently includes the Delaware Department of Labor), recently came under Congressional scrutiny due to its use of face detection and biometric authentication. More recently, it fired dozens of employees on its fraud team, further highlighting the need for tight cybersecurity, especially when using outside platforms.

When it comes down to it, there can never be too much cybersecurity education, whether it’s formal training or resources for self-learning.

One of the state’s outreach programs is Delaware DigiKnow. It’s the local home base for CyberStart, the national cybersecurity challenge program for high school students, and Cyber FastTrack, its college-level version.

Enhancing your defenses

Other entities in Delaware need protecting, too.

In response to the Russian attacks on Ukraine, the state has heightened its cybersecurity outreach to businesses and residents with Delaware Shields Up, a program with the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The program works to prevent and mitigate cyber-attacks by providing resources and encouraging a low threshold for reporting incidents, which can potentially prevent other entities from being attacked.

Shields Up can help you can become cybersecurity literate enough to recognize common phishing threats.

Through the resources provided by Shields Up, business owners, employees and others can become cybersecurity literate enough to recognize common phishing threats — the main gateway for highly destructive ransomware attacks — which is knowledge that may make them more likely to use high-security security tactics like multi-factor authentication.

“Anytime you access the system, zero trust should be in play,” said Tom Kelly, cybersecurity advocate and CEO of IDX, the largest breach response firm in the US. “No presumption that you are who you are. Educate yourself on how to identify and not click on phishing attacks. They’re getting way more sophisticated, where if you look at the email address, it looks, to somebody who’s not paying attention, just like it should look like coming from their financial institution or others.”

One Newark company, Anchor Security Team, specializes in phishing awareness training, if you want to go beyond what Shields Up offers.

What’s next?

As far as when Delaware residents will see the new, more streamlined digital government platform, there is no definitive date. But Lane says it’s in the implementation stage — and that, even once it launches, residents can expect the features to expand over time.

“You know, when [Amazon] Prime free shipping first started, they couldn’t deliver the same day or the next day yet, they didn’t have Prime Video,” Lane said. “It’s an evolution.”

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