Note to cities: beware of security vulnerabilities and hidden expenses when acquiring new IT systems

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Government buyers should be aware of security issues that new technologies can introduce to a network or system, says Jeffrey Jones, national security and global trade attorney at Lowenstein Sandler LLP. “State and local governments are easy targets for ransomware actors and cyberattacks, as smaller government entities often lack the resources to maintain adequate cybersecurity protections. A cybersecurity attack can take a government system out of service for decades. weeks and can be extremely expensive to repair.”

He adds that limited resources often constrain state and local governments, making purchasing technology a particularly tricky task. “A mistake made in a technology purchase cannot always be corrected quickly and can take a long time to recover from, as the money may simply not be available to correct the error.”

To avoid costly mistakes, Jones advises city and state governments to remember these points before purchasing technology:

  • Protect new technologies from unauthorized access. Technology made in countries like Russia and China can contain backdoors into small government information systems, which can allow cyber actors easy access to the network and cripple the network’s ability to function. properly. “Therefore, to the extent that new technology affects a communications network, it is critical that the network administrator fully understand the security vulnerabilities that new technology may introduce into the government information system prior to provisioning. . This way, they are able to identify the risks associated with new technologies and determine if they can implement appropriate risk mitigation procedures to address vulnerabilities. Jones concludes, “If adequate security measures cannot be implemented, new technology should not be purchased.”
  • Yes, there can be a significant disconnect between an identified government need and the government’s ability to ultimately procure the technology. “This can result in the acquisition of technology that is one or two steps away from the most recently developed capability and create a situation where the government is constantly looking for the most viable solutions, which can become costly or lead to dissatisfaction. governments with its technology solutions,” Jones says. He concludes, “It is important for local and state governments to consider the life cycles of their existing technology and plan for purchases of new technology before the end of the useful life of a particular technology.
  • Keep in mind that most technologies require frequent updates and upgrades. Jones says this feature can lead to additional costs to train existing technology support staff to perform repairs and updates. “Furthermore, if the technology is particularly new or innovative, it may even require hiring new technically competent employees to perform the necessary technology support or outsourcing that support to a commercial vendor. Additionally, if the technology contains parts that can wear out or break, it might also be prudent for governments to determine how difficult it will be to obtain the parts before acquiring the technology. His conclusion: “These are all hidden costs that governments need to factor into the purchasing decision before acquiring the technology.”
  • Government administrators will need to monitor hardware and software performance, especially if the latest acquisition is particularly state-of-the-art or if local or state governments are replacing technology that has been a mainstay for many years. “They will need to pay close attention to how technology users adapt to using the new equipment. There may be additional costs associated with training government employees on the new systems. Jones offers this conclusion: “With a new acquisition, governments should be prepared for a potential decline in productivity or an increase in errors as employees learn to use the technology correctly.”
  • New technologies are not always compatible with older equipment. “Purchasing new technology may require replacing or reconfiguring older equipment in order for the new equipment to function properly,” says Jones. He says that to avoid downtime and data processing delays, state and local governments must maintain a good accounting of existing systems and conduct careful review to determine whether new technology can be combined with the old technology with which it will have to interface.

Jones says cities should observe several best practices when considering purchasing new IT equipment. One is to ensure that the decision to buy the technology does not depend solely on the affordability of the initial cost of the technology. To accompany his list (above) of how to avoid costly mistakes, Jones observes: “There are several hidden factors in maintaining technology that can create significant future costs to government, both due additional expenses and potential productivity losses due to disruptions. »

To help avoid these significant future costs, Jones urges state and local governments to consult with experts regarding the secondary costs associated with acquiring information technology. He says knowledgeable consultants can offer an opinion on the support, lifecycle and security of new technology.

Cooperative purchasing agreements for the acquisition of IT equipment can save the public sector a lot of time, Jones believes. He says that through cooperative agreements, departments avoid having to go through all the many steps of a traditional procurement process. “That’s because another department or agency has already done all the work to identify, solicit and negotiate a price for the technology.” Jones adds these points for procurement teams to consider: “The downside is that the buyer relies on the work of another entity to perform the verification process. buying a technology can end up being very different from the criteria another agency would use.

OMNIA Partners Public Sector has descriptions of many cooperative contracts that offer IT solutions. Go here for information on the company’s contract portfolio.

Michael Keating is editor for American City & County. Contact him at [email protected].

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