Every time you turn on the news, it seems there’s another story about yet another North American city having their data hijacked by yet another mysterious group of hackers. And this isn’t just a matter of it taking a few more days to access your property records or get a building permit for that shed; towns are losing their access to their basic communication tools like email, their ability to cut checks to vendors, and even their 911 response software. It’s like something out of Mr. Robot—and if it scares you, we don’t blame you.
But here’s the thing about fear: it almost always has to do with what you don’t know. And when it comes to the underlying infrastructure that makes our cities function—whether that’s pipe in the ground or pixels on a screen—a lot of us don’t know much.
Why is it so easy for digital criminals to send the essential services of whole municipalities grinding to a halt? If “government efficiency” is such an oxymoron, why is so much of our municipal data stored in monolithic systems with minimal backups? And more generally, what can cities do to prepare themselves for seemingly unforeseeable events, whether we’re talking digital apocalypse or the storm of the century?
On this episode of Upzoned, host Kea and guest John Reuter (a city government alum himself) take on these tough questions, and explore whether the data hacking scandals of late have something larger to teach us about how to build resilient places. Then in the Downzone, they chat about the media they’re consuming as the weather heats up, from puppy training videos to the Project Runway reboot.