State highlights cybersecurity initiatives to protect Pennsylvanians

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected] | October 7th, 2017 6:18 pm

WILKES-BARRE — In the wake of high-profile cyber attacks targeting businesses, governments and other organizations, the Wolf administration this week reminded Pennsylvanians to take appropriate steps to protect their personal and financial data.

“We depend on technology and the Internet in so many ways, which is why all of us must do our part to keep them secure,” said Gov. Tom Wolf in a press release. “No one is immune to cyber attacks. However, there are many simple things we can do that reduce the chances of being a victim.”

Leaders of several state agencies also spoke about their efforts to protect the public from cyber threats.

Secretary of Banking and Securities Robin L. Wiessmann said the frequency and complexity of cyber attacks, especially following the Equifax data breach, reinforce the need for everyone and every organization to have conversations about cybersecurity and to make plans to protect themselves.

In response to this challenge, Wiessmann said the state has launched a cybersecurity guide for consumers, produced by a collaboration of 10 state agencies and offices. The online guide will help consumers protect themselves and their families as they navigate the Internet in their daily lives.

The guide includes tips to prevent identity theft, protect passwords, keep children safe online and secure mobile devices.

The Office of Administration (OA) oversees cybersecurity for agencies under the governor’s jurisdiction and is a leader among states in security, the release says. Pennsylvania recently earned top honors for cybersecurity from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers for cloud security using risk-based, multi-factor authentication.

Currently in use for cloud email and storage, the service reduces the risk of unauthorized access by requiring users to provide information, in addition to a user name and password, to verify their identities. The state intends to implement the safeguard on additional systems in the future.

The Department of State takes full advantage of OA’s expertise as part of its strategy to safeguard the commonwealth’s electoral system, including the statewide voter registration database.

State agencies are also focused on planning and preparedness. In 2016, Pennsylvania was one of the first states in the nation to hold an exercise focused on the response to a prolonged, widespread power outage, such as from a cyber attack. In August, the Public Utility Commission, Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency took part in a first-ever transnational exercise to test responses to a large-scale power outage event.

Voter registration

deadline is Oct. 10

Secretary of State Pedro A. Cortés this week reminded Pennsylvanians they have until Tuesday, Oct. 10, to register to vote in the November election. He encouraged citizens to take advantage of the online voter registration (OVR) site.

Eligible citizens have until Tuesday to apply for a new voter registration or make changes to their existing registration.

The state’s OVR application can be found at In addition to applying for a new registration, the OVR system can also be used to make updates to an existing voter record, such as a change of name, address or party affiliation. Since the OVR launch in August 2015, more than 962,000 eligible Pennsylvanians have used the site.

Voters are also encouraged to use the online system to confirm their registration status prior to the deadline.

Registered voters planning to cast an absentee ballot are advised to pay close attention to important deadlines. Although the deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 31, the voted ballots must be received in the county election office by 5 p.m. Nov. 3.

Individuals wishing to register to vote in the November election must be:

• A citizen of the United States for at least one month before the election.

• A resident of Pennsylvania and the election district in which the individual desires to register and vote for at least 30 days before the election.

• At least 18 years of age on or before the date of the election.

State legislators to introduce ban

on ‘multi-burst trigger activators’

State Reps. Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery, and Dom Costa, D-Allegheny, this week announced their plan to introduce legislation to update the state’s definition of “offensive weapons” to include firearm modifications that assist in rapid firing, like the ones used in the Las Vegas massacre.

The Pennsylvania Crimes Code currently bans “offensive weapons,” which includes items such as machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, and grenades. Violation of this section carries a penalty of a first-degree misdemeanor. The proposed legislation would add “multi-burst trigger activators” to the list of offensive weapons and includes items such as binary triggers and slide fire/bump stocks.

The firearm modifications included in the proposed legislation are described as being able to simulate fully automatic rates of fire, and able to expel over 600 rounds per minute — more than nine rounds per second.

This legislation is supported by PA SAFE, the Pennsylvania state House of Representative’s firearm safety caucus.

Researchers: Warming unlikely

to impact animal ag in Northeast

Climate change will not significantly impair animal agriculture in the Northeast region of the United States, according to a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, who point out there are many variables in the future scenario they envision.

Although a projected increase in hot days will cause more heat stress in dairy cows and economic challenges for the equine industry, some animal agricultural endeavors in the Northeast may actually benefit from warming, predicted lead researcher Alex Hristov, professor of dairy nutrition, College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State.

Warmer conditions could result in poultry producers incurring lower energy costs for heating chicken housing fall through spring. Researchers also suggest a warmer, wetter environment could boost the ability of beef cattle producers to grow and provide forage for their animals.

Researchers noted that climate models for the Northeast predict, on average, more warm days exceeding 77 degrees; more extremely warm nights — with minimum temperature above 70 degrees; fewer extremely cold nights — temperatures below 32 degrees; warmer average winter and summer temperatures; more days with heavy rain exceeding 2 to 3 inches; and higher annual precipitation.

The research, which was published recently in Climatic Change, analyzed the coming impacts of warmer, wetter conditions in the Northeast on forage production and quality; manure management; emerging pathogens and disease; the production of dairy cattle, beef cattle and poultry; and equine enterprises.


By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.