Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Go Code Colorado is back for 2016!

Pikr Knows from the 2015 Go Code Colorado
Go Code Colorado has been an incredible addition to Colorado’s thriving tech and innovation community. Go Code is helping Colorado achieve a more meaningful, healthier government and business environment through a number of competitive events that challenge entrepreneurs and developers to build data-savvy apps that help businesses make better decisions. Go Code is an initiative of the Colorado Secretary of State’s Business Intelligence Center, which works to make state-managed, public data more accessible with the help of the Governor’s Office of Information Technology’s Colorado Information Marketplace (CIM) at data.colorado.gov.

Go Code will host its third app challenge in 2016 and we couldn’t be more excited! But first, we thought we would follow up with one of the winning teams from 2015 for a little Q&A. We contacted Jordan Majdolashrafi from the Pikr Knows team who helped develop a tourism app for Colorado residents and visitors that suggests a variety of activities based on the user's needs. Here’s what he had to say about his team’s winning app:

What is the progress of Pikr Knows’ winning app today?

Jordan: We're finishing up the last stages of a mobile version of the app and plan for a release on both iOS and Android. Once the mobile app is online, we plan on taking down the version on our website and focusing purely on a mobile experience.

What’s the coolest thing that has happened to you since winning the 2015 Go Code Colorado?

Jordan: Personally, job offers and a nice salary boost. After winning, I've had several people approach me asking to consult for or join their company. Since Go Code is one of the biggest hackathons in the region and has a good amount of media coverage, it looks really good on a resume.

Editor’s note: Go Code Colorado organizers avoid the “hackathon” label. They call the competition a civic app challenge. Read more about the distinction in this blog post.

What was the biggest challenge Pikr Knows faced during last year’s competition?

Jordan: Team dynamics. Everyone on our team was very talented - however, we couldn't agree on anything and we were constantly stepping on each other's feet. It was easy to get burned out on the project quickly. Now that we've had some time to rest and settle our differences, we are excited to finish up the mobile app.

Do you have any recommendations for next year’s competitors?

Jordan: Yes! Choose your team carefully, you'll spend so much time around them that they'll become family by the end of the competition. Define specific roles for every team member and trust your team members to make the right calls and follow through. Offer your opinion on matters, but respect and realize the final decision is made by the member whose role is in charge of that matter.

Kick off for next year’s app challenge will take place on Feb. 3, 2016, so start building your team up. For more information on upcoming events or building a team, visit GoCode.CO. We hope to see you there!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Google Apps are trending in Colorado. Kickass!

The State of Colorado has been using Google Apps for Government since 2012. We chose this enterprise solution in order to eliminate 15 aging and disparate email systems, as well as streamline budget and work time through the use of these cost effective, user-friendly, collaborative tools. And because, let’s face it, Google Apps are amazing.

To date, Colorado’s use of Google Sites alone has resulted in $4 million in cost avoidance. We are also very proud that Colorado’s website coloradounited.com, established during the flood disaster of 2013, won the 2014 CITE award for Best Use of GIS (geographic information systems).

Before jumping into the world of Google, we had to get a few ducks in a row. The State of Colorado was the first entity worldwide to obtain Google’s Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Business Associate Agreement. This ensures that Protected Health Information (PHI) is being safeguarded when using Google’s core applications. Our Google Services Team also works closely with our Office of Information Security in maintaining a private Chrome store for third party applications and extensions that have been vetted for use on the Google Apps for Government system.

Even our power users of Google know that there’s always more to learn. Google Apps was designed to make people more efficient and productive; you don’t have to be “tech-savvy” to use them. The Gooru (a part of our BetterCloud administrative, auditing and security suite) just posted its Productivity Guide for Google Apps with tips and insights into all of your Google Apps. We definitely learned a thing or two, so take a look if you are a Google lover, user, or simply need a new method for collaboration.

Are you a state employee? If you want to access The Gooru’s online toolset directly within the state environment, you can click on the navgrid (the nine little boxes at the top of each Google page whether you are in Gmail, Drive, Sites, etc). In that window, click “more” and then click on BetterCloud icon. If you haven’t done this before, it may prompt you to authenticate your account. Go ahead and authenticate. From there, you will be taken to a landing page where you can access a variety of Gooru tools, arranged from beginner to intermediate to gooru (expert!).

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Food, fun, parties, and lots of online shopping.

Today’s blog content is in partnership with MS-ISAC, the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center, Stop. Think. Connect., and the Center for Information Security.

It’s that time of year again—food, fun, parties, and lots of online shopping. Online shopping can be a savior, allowing you to find the perfect gift while saving time, but it can also end with identity theft, malware on your computer, and other cyber unpleasantness. Rather than letting it ruin your holiday season, you can take a few simple security precautions, and be careful where you shop, to help reduce the chances of you being a cyber victim.

When purchasing online this holiday season—and all year long—keep these tips in mind to help minimize your risk:
  1. Be cautious what devices you use to shop online. Mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, make shopping convenient at anytime and place, but they frequently lack the security precautions of a regular computer. If you use a mobile device to shop, make extra sure you are taking all the precautions listed below.
  2. Do not use public computers or public wireless for your online shopping. Public computers and wireless networks may contain malicious software that steals your information when you place your order, which can lead to identity theft.
  3. Secure your computer and mobile devices. Be sure to keep the operating system, software, and/or apps updated/patched on all of your computers and mobile devices. Use up-to-date antivirus protection and make sure it is receiving updates.
  4. Use strong passwords. The use of strong, unique passwords is one of the simplest and most important steps to take in securing your devices, computers, and online accounts. If you need to create an account with the merchant, be sure to use a strong, unique password. Always use more than ten characters, with numbers, special characters, and upper and lower case letters. Use a unique password for every unique site. The August Newsletter contains more information about the dangers of password reuse and is available at: http://msisac.cisecurity.org/newsletters/2015-08.cfm
  5. Know your online shopping merchants. Limit your online shopping to merchants you know and trust. If you have questions about a merchant, check with the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission. Confirm the online seller's physical address, where available, and phone number in case you have questions or problems. Do not create an online account with a merchant you don’t trust.
  6. Pay online with one credit card. A safer way to shop on the Internet is to pay with a credit card rather than debit card. Debit cards do not have the same consumer protections as credit cards. Credit cards are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act and may limit your liability if your information was used improperly. By using one credit card, with a lower balance, for all your online shopping you also limit the potential for financial fraud to affect all of your accounts. Always check your statements regularly and carefully, though.
  7. Look for "https" when making an online purchase. The "s" in "https" stands for "secure" and indicates that communication with the webpage is encrypted. This helps to ensure your information is transmitted safely to the merchant and no one can spy on it.
  8. Do not respond to pop-ups. When a window pops up promising you cash or gift cards for answering a question or taking a survey, close it by pressing Control + F4 for Windows and Command + W for Macs.
  9. Be careful opening emails, attachments, and clicking on links. Be cautious about all emails you receive, even those purportedly from your favorite retailers. The emails could be spoofed and contain malware.
  10. Do not auto-save your personal information. When purchasing online, you may be given the option to save your personal information online for future use. Consider if the convenience is really worth the risk. The convenience of not having to reenter the information is insignificant compared to the significant amount of time you’ll spend trying to repair the loss of your stolen personal information.
  11. Use common sense to avoid scams. Don't give out your personal or financial information via email or text. Information on many current scams can be found on the website of the Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission.
  12. Review privacy policies. Review the privacy policy for the website/merchant you are visiting. Know what information the merchant is collecting about you, how it will be stored, how it will be used, and if it will be shared with others.
What to do if you encounter problems with an online shopping site?
Contact the seller or the site operator directly to resolve any issues. You may also contact the following:
http://msisac.cisecurity.org/    https://www.stopthinkconnect.org/

Debbi Blyth: Chief Information Security Officer. Colorado native (almost!), beach lover, deep sea diver, Sunday school teacher. I'm the queen of keeping Colorado safe online. Find me on Twitter at @debbiblyth.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Credit card chip technology finally makes its way to the U.S.

EMV (Europay, Mastercard, and Visa) is becoming the standard for U.S. consumers and business owners. While many other countries have already adopted this technology, the U.S. has lagged behind. These new and improved cards are equipped with a small computer chip that’s extremely hard to counterfeit. With compromised credit cards and data breaches on the rapid rise, the U.S. payment industry is slowly making the transition to EMV technology.

In 2014, data breaches totaled 1,540 worldwide -- up 46 percent from the year before -- and led to the compromise of more than one billion data records. In addition, approximately 31.8 million U.S. consumers had their credit cards compromised last year, more than three times the number affected in 2013. Although the deadline for the transition was to be complete by Oct 1, 2015, some merchants still do not have EMV card readers readily available, making them fully liable for their losses in any data breach.

So what does this mean for consumers? Well, without the upgraded machine the chip doesn’t come into play -- consumers will have to swipe the magnetic strip instead and therefore forfeit the card’s fraud fighting protection. The card will also lose its security benefits if a PIN is not attached to the chip -- card holders must assign a PIN to the card’s chip to enable full protection.

Experts hope that chip-enabled cards will significantly reduce card fraud in the U.S. However, online fraud is expected to grow because EMV technology only protects consumers when they insert their card into an EMV-ready card reader, so shoppers will still need to take extra precautions when making purchases online. For more information on how chipped credit cards function, check out the FAQs page on CreditCards.com, or attend the Rocky Mountain Information Management Association’s upcoming session, “EMV Chip and PIN: Will it save us?” on Dec. 10, 2015, in Denver.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Holiday travel? Have no fear, Bustang is here!

Last week kicked off another busy holiday season on Colorado roads, and we all know that highway traffic can cause quite the headache.

Enter Bustang™ -- the new Colorado interregional express bus (with WiFi!). Connecting major populations, employment centers and local transit entities along the I-25 front range and I-70 mountain corridors, Bustang now makes commuting as simple as saddling up to ride Colorado’s big purple bus. Check out the Bustang schedule, routes and prices online here.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) announced Bustang’s service launch on July 13, 2015, with 13 buses in rotation on each respective route. Each coach is equipped with restrooms, bike racks, free WiFi, power outlets and USB ports. Coaches offer a 50-passenger capacity and are handicap accessible.

Our Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) teams played a big role in this exciting new transportation offering -- watch our Bustang video to find out how.

So take a much-needed break from steering the wheel this holiday season and grab a seat on the Bustang!