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Rap Video Brings Cowbell to State’s IT Security

What do Snoop Dogg, Drake and the West Virginia chief information security officer have in common?

What do Snoop Dogg, Drake and the West Virginia chief information security officer have in common?

They’re all rappers.

Although not on the level of Snoop Dogg’s 1994 hit Gin and Juice, Jim Richards III, West Virginia’s chief information security officer, wrote and rapped lyrics for a video highlighting the work of the state’s Office of Security and Controls, after winning NASCIO’s 2011 recognition award for the “Risk Management Initiatives” category.

Award recipients were asked by NASCIO to submit a video about their agency’s IT projects, which were shown at the association’s awards ceremony last month. Most of the winning agencies used a more serious tone in their videos, but Richards decided a rap would be a fun way to deliver the security office’s message.

The video shows Richards introducing staff in the security office in rhymes. He describes each of their positions and how they prevent cybersecurity problems. Viewers will even hear a cowbell at one point.

“I took up the challenge and we talked about what we might do. I just thought maybe we could put together a rap,” Richards said. “I’m not a big fan of rap music or anything, but it just sort of came together.”

Before the rap video took root, Richards and his staff were recognized by NASCIO for a series of videos they made as part of a security awareness program to provide online training to 19,000 state government employees. The videos show real-life scenarios, such as the negative effects of letting an unauthorized person into a government building, the importance of creating strong passwords, and email phishing.

“[The videos] are just really fundamental — and [tips] users need to always follow to keep their environment secure,” Richards said. “But given that the human element is the weakest element, it’s the most difficult to manage.”

Richards’ rap was one of 10 videos featured in an open online poll this month on the NASCIO homepage. Voting closed Thursday, Nov. 17. Pennsylvania’s video on “Improving State Operations” — featuring talking babies — was declared the winner.

NASCIO’s Video Stars

Each year NASCIO selects top agencies that have demonstrated outstanding achievement in the IT field. The awards cover 10 different categories. The complete list of winners and corresponding YouTube video links are:

Miriam Jones is a former chief copy editor of Government Technology, Governing, Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines.
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