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Gilbert, Ariz., Gets Strategic About Cyber Resilience, Defense

The town has opted for a cyber recovery vault, along with machine learning and artificial intelligence tools, to streamline its recovery in case of a cyber attack. The move also stems the tide of ad hoc IT implimentations.

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Reinforcing cybersecurity and ensuring continuity of operations is a primary mission for the IT team in Gilbert, Ariz., so much so that the town partnered with a vendor to help bolster recovery solutions, deployment services and IT-support software.

The partnership, with Dell Technologies, first began in 2019, according to Gilbert CISO Tony Bryson, to address the town’s growing cybersecurity needs and to provide stability and continuity for the more than 250 online city services, while incorporating updated technology.

Some of these services include an open data portal, paying utilities online, e-notifications and monitoring RFP/CIP open bids.

Switching up the town's procurement strategy meant a move away from the traditional ad hoc approach used by individual departments and toward a more proactive adoption of new cybersecurity kits. Bryson explained that departments would find “one-off” products instead of technology that could be used more strategically over time, leading to IT redundancies and other problems.

“When we started this process, we looked at it from a data perspective,” Bryson said. “We wanted to identify all our key critical data that we needed to back up and have it in a safe harbor.”

A small group within the city's office of information technology worked with Dell to incorporate a cyber recovery vault, monitoring software, locking mechanisms — including layered passwords and time stamps, machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies.

When using these technologies, “it isn’t to prevent a cyber attack, it’s to prevent the disastrous effects of an attack,” Rob Emsley, director of product marketing for data protection at Dell, explained.

For example, Gilbert’s cyber recovery vault works by protecting copies of the town’s data and IT infrastructure rather than the original files, allowing the IT team to boot up the backup in the event of a cyber attack.

“Each day, you copy your production environment, or at least the little changes that have taken place on a daily basis, and then you copy those changes into the cyber recovery vault,” Emsley explained. “If there's ever any repetition of copied data, we use deduplication, rather than storing it twice, delivering an architecture that doesn't grow out of control.”

Outside of the digital vault, other artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies are being implemented to reach the town’s other goals.

“Technologies that employ some level of artificial intelligence are being evaluated by numerous divisions within the town of Gilbert,” Bryson said. “Because of the sensitivity of some of those technologies, we would prefer not to speak directly to the products or services.”

However, he added the overall goal is to transition from a small organization to a midsize organization through these efforts and initiatives.
Katya Maruri is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in global strategic communications from Florida International University.