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How to Talk to Your Board About Cybersecurity

Welcome to the latest issue of The Districts, where we chronicle the people, issues and activities impacting special districts across the U.S.

internet security and data protection concept, blockchain and cybersecurity
Convincing board members and other senior executives to support adequate and ongoing funding for cybersecurity is a crucial and often difficult task for special district leaders. But with ransomware and other sophisticated attacks on the rise, educating executives about the need to address cyber risk is essential.

Patrick Robinson, AT&T’s associate director of cybersecurity for public sector, recently offered this practical advice to special district leaders for making effective cybersecurity presentations to governing boards and other leadership bodies:

  • Keep it simple: Understand your board’s level of engagement with IT operations and their general cybersecurity awareness and tailor your presentation accordingly. It’s usually best to avoid talk about technology or specific products and focus on business objectives.
  • Position cyber with other business risks: Board members typically are familiar with managing financial and legal risks. Explain that adopting a risk-based approach to cybersecurity is similar to the type of controls that are already in place in other areas.
  • Use real-life examples: While it is best to avoid sensational news accounts, concrete examples that illustrate the costs and consequences of cyber attacks can be effective. Point to credible data from sources like the FBI and the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to make your case.
  • Relate cyber to business strategy: Research what your board has approved regarding information technology to support business strategy. Explain the consequences of having these systems shutdown by a successful ransomware attack.
  • Propose solutions: Performing a cyber risk assessment and creating a risk register that identifies and quantifies the risk associated with various critical assets can help your board make cybersecurity investments based on risk.
  • Use visuals: Charts and graphics can help board members engage with cybersecurity issues by illustrating processes, roadmaps and other critical information.
You’ll find more advice from Patrick in the on-demand version of our 2021 Special Districts Virtual Summit. Look for Patrick’s session on “Exploring the New Digital Infrastructure Security Requirements.”
Don’t Miss Your Chance for Recognition

Time is running out to submit your nomination for a 2021 Special Districts Award. We’re looking for examples of effective leadership and innovative projects to provide digital citizen services, reengineer business processes, strengthen information security and more. Send us your nomination by August 6 and make sure your district’s achievements get the attention they deserve.

Last year, we recognized more than 40 special districts for innovation in technology and leadership. This year we already have dozens of applications from districts that are creating new strategic plans, deploying advanced services and transforming internal processes. Don’t miss this chance to add your district to the list.

New Virtual Events on Funding and Emerging Tech

Understanding the Funding Landscape: Get practical insights on using the American Rescue Plan Act and other federal stimulus funding programs to support technology investments. Join us Aug. 18 to hear firsthand from funding experts and special district leaders who have used federal dollars to overcome financial constraints and innovate their operations for the future. You’ll also get a chance to have your most pressing questions about funding answered live. Reserve your spot now at this important webcast.

Summit on Emerging Technology: It’s more important than ever for you to understand how emerging technologies will impact your organization. The pandemic accelerated demand for IT modernization and raised digital expectations among your executive leadership and constituents. Special district leaders need to prioritize and securely deploy new tools in the midst of other operational challenges. On Sept. 16 our panel of experts will break down key technologies such as 5G, edge computing and artificial intelligence to help you understand how they can support your mission. You’ll hear practical advice, lessons learned and important insights developed specifically for special districts. Register today.

District Spotlight: LA Metro Launches LAX Connector Project

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) broke ground last month on a $900 million project that will link the county's fast-growing rail network to a people mover system being built at the Los Angeles International Airport.

The project — which for the first time will give Los Angeles area residents and travelers direct rail service to the airport — is designed to be up and running in time for the 2028 Olympics. But more important, some officials see it as a potential turning point in the region’s ambitious efforts to make mass transit a serious alternative in a city known for its cars.

The Airport Metro Connector will join other huge transit projects already under construction, including several new subway and rail lines. Despite the rise of rail over the last few decades, passenger growth has been slow. Many hope a connection to the airport could jump-start the effort.

Read the full story.

More Articles Worth a Read

Here are more stories from special districts around the country. Share your own news with us for inclusion in the next newsletter.

Pioneer Valley Transit Authority in Massachusetts wins $7.2 million grant for electric buses. The grant is the largest in the nation for a regional transit authority this year under the Federal Transit Administration’s Low and No-Emission grant program.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio hopes to have the city’s congestion pricing program up and running in 2022. The program, which will toll vehicles entering Manhattan’s central business district, has stalled since the Trump administration refused to OK the review process.