Santa Fe, N.M., Changes Social Media Practice for Security

Employees of Santa Fe, N.M., must now reapply for access to the city's social media accounts and email list. The city spokesperson said the change relates to cybersecurity and is more of a new practice than a new policy.

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(TNS) — The city of Santa Fe is clamping down on employees' access to its large-scale email address list and social media platforms.

According to an email sent last week by City Manager Jarel LaPan Hill, access to the city's social media accounts and the ability to distribute to all city email addresses was removed starting last Friday.

The move, LaPan Hill's email reads, was intended to "reduce the risk to the City of Santa Fe's network, data and to protect any confidential or other non-public information."

Employees had to reapply to get access to the city's social media platforms on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, among others. To acquire them again, city staff members were asked to complete a form, which included questions about which social media platform employees needed access to, as well as a space to justify the request. Employees also had to request to be able to send emails to all city staff through its email distribution system.

When asked what prompted the change, city spokesman Dave Herndon shared a post from the World Economic Forum that detailed a rise in ransomware attacks in some of the larger cities in the U.S. as part of the justification.

Herndon in an email wrote the decision was a matter of "responsible management."

The city has been frequently criticized on Facebook by an individual who calls himself or herself as " Jay Baker." Believed to be a city employee by some, the account has constantly targeted city government, including Mayor Alan Webber, who is running for reelection later this year.

When asked if the city believes it had dealt with internal leaks, and whether there was a concern the information may have come from email or social media channels, Herndon wrote the policy was "not about leakage."

"It's about communication protocols and the bigger concern of cybersecurity," Herndon wrote.

Webber, who is frequently tagged in the Facebook posts, does not respond and has called for the individual to come from behind the curtain of anonymity sometimes provided by social media.

Herndon wrote the "Jay Baker" account had no influence on the city's decision and the process to evaluate and document who had access to what platforms began "several months ago." He added it amounted to a "new practice," not a new policy.

"This is not about chatter," Herndon wrote. "It's about cybersecurity."

Prior to implementing the practice, close to 200 employees had access to various departmental social media accounts, Herndon wrote.

"Managing the numbers and making sure that people who need access, have access, was a necessary step to ensuring uniform practices are applied across all city channels," Herndon wrote.

He added a new policy regarding social media accounts specifically is under review.

©2021 The Santa Fe New Mexican, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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