Blog

State Employees Recognized Today!

Today is State Employee Recognition Day in South Dakota.The day is an excellent opportunity to express appreciation to state employees at a time when their dedication is even more valued and appreciated. South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard says sta…

World Password Day

May 4th is World Password Day.  In honor of the occasion, we have gathered some interesting articles and information from recent articles and studies to share with you.  Passwords are often a major pain point for users; however, passwords are the keys to your kingdom, and bad guys definitely want your passwords.
 
Last week, Verizon released its 10th Annual Data Breach Investigation Report (http://www.verizonenterprise.com/verizon-insights-lab/dbir/2017/) last week, which (as always) contains good information and lessons to be learned.  The surprising password-related statistic from the report showed that 81% of hacking-related breaches from 2016 leveraged stolen and/or weak or guessable passwords.
 
A study by Dashlane, a leading password manager provider, pointed out that the average American Internet user now has 150 accounts requiring a password. One compromised account could potentially allow an attacker to gain access to others should passwords be similar or shared. Another survey called the State of Consumer Privacy and Trust survey released by Gigya showed that “despite security fears, password hygiene remains poor, with 70% of consumers using seven or fewer password across all of their online accounts.
 
SBS CyberSecurity recommends the following steps to protect your accounts through stronger passwords:
  • Remember that the length of your passwords is the single most important factor
  • While eight (8) characters with complexity is still the “standard,” SBS (along with most best-practice guidelines) recommend 14 character passwords
  • To help with longer, more complex passwords, consider a password manager to store complex passwords to websites (LastPass, KeyPass, etc.)
  • Avoid sharing passwords across multiple accounts
  • Where possible, utilize multi-factor authentication
  • Educate employees on the importance of good security practices regarding passwords
 
For more information on passwords and authentication, including a video you can share with all your users, SBS has recently published three (3) new items to our blog that you might find helpful. Check out the following links:
 

Continuous Improvement (Lean) – Event #2: Takt Board – Visualizing How A Project Moves

BIT Development is striving to make its work more transparent and is accomplishing that through the Continuous Improvement (Lean) process. The process began with a review of the rate at which projects move through BIT Development – from the time an agency requests an initial project estimate until implementation of the developed item. This is defined as the Project Cycle Time and is comprised by the phases of the Project Development Life Cycle (SDLC): Initial Estimate, Initiation, Analysis & Design, Development, User Acceptance Testing, and Implementation.

Before implementing Lean, BIT Development had no clear way to tell how many projects had been started or completed or where they were in the SDLC phases without manually counting them. Every development team had their own process and there were no standards followed across teams. Because of these challenges, BIT Development was unable to effectively manage its resources and manage the flow of projects coming in and going out.

In order to track and visually represent a project’s progression through the SDLC, a large Takt Board was created. This enables leadership, and others, to:

  • Identify SDLC and project bottlenecks;
  • Show how projects flow through the SDLC; 
  • Make decisions about choke and release points;  
  • Effectively prioritize projects; 
  • Identify opportunities to pool and temporarily reallocate resources; and
  • Identify when BIT Development is achieving its goals.
So, how did BIT Development do this? First, the team had to identify the bottleneck, the point at which projects slow down as they are waiting for resources to become available for the next phase to start. Second, it was necessary to identify the constraint. Every process has a constraint and the team recognized that when a project reaches the Development phase is where the primary value comes into the product, and the team identified this point as the constraint of the SDLC process.

The following picture shows Development’s Throughput Operating Strategy (TOS) which was developed during the Takt Board Event. . In short, it is a high-level division process that helps direct process improvement efforts. By developing the TOS, it is easier to understand which activities should be improved first and how the managers and employees can assist in the effort. As shown by the TOS, the Development phase was identified as the constraint. The next Continuous Improvement effort will be centered on Requirements Gathering/Analysis & Design.

How does the team ensure projects move smoothly through the SDLC process? After identifying the constraint (Development phase), encourage focus on project tasks and discourage multi-tasking. Then, subordinate the other areas to the constraint – make sure the other parts of the process are working at the same cadence so as not to overwhelm the constraint. For example, if the constraint (Development phase) can only handle 40 projects at a time, there is no reason to put more than that into the Development phase because they won’t get done. In fact, there is plenty of evidence to suggest the whole system will slow down. A system of Choke and Release, ensures that the system only gets “fed” what it can handle.

The final step is to elevate and manage the constraint. After assuring that the Development phase is not being fed more than what it can handle, the team works to improve the phase so that it can handle more. This is will improve operations over time to ensure more projects can get completed and delivered to Agencies.

The Takt Board project not only encompassed the creation of a physical/visual Takt board, but also the foundational processes/practices that keep it accurate and up to date. Using BIT Development’s SDLC phases, projects are tracked digitally and visually.

“I was a member of the Takt Board Communications Team and not only did I appreciate working with such a great group of BIT staff, but also learned how BIT can leverage the Takt board to identify choke points and constraints to improve our processes.” – Wade Douglas

The digital Takt Board is taken from three systems within BIT – IT Priorities, PPM (Project Portfolio Management), and WoTS (Work Tracking System). The information is put into a spreadsheet and is discussed every other week with Development managers. The managers predict where each project will be at the end of the next two weeks and their predictions are recorded. If a project does not meet the prediction, the manager needs to explain why it hasn’t progressed as planned.

The resulting visual/physical Takt Board is deliberately low tech. Each Development team has its own sticky note color. The project name and IT Priorities number for each project is written on sticky note and is tracked through the SDLC phases weekly. This shows everyone how projects are progressing. The main Takt Board:

Not only is BIT Development utilizing the Takt Board concept, BIT Data Center has embraced it as well. Here is what theirs looks like:

The Data Center’s adoption of the Takt Board helps to demonstrate that this tool, and so many other Continuous Improvement tools, can be used throughout BIT regardless of that group’s activities.

BIT Data Center personnel manage dozens of projects on a daily basis, including internal Data Center projects and projects that are part of the BIT strategic plan. Not until recently was there a clear way for members of the Systems, Integration, Email, DBA or Web teams to track all projects involving Data Center staff. The projects that need to be monitored by this division include those that impact only members of the individual Data Center teams, the projects that impact multiple teams within the Data Center, and the projects that are included under the BIT strategic planning site.

In response to this concern, a Takt Board was created to not only show work involving all of these types of projects, but to also better track status of all projects. The Takt Board gives a visual understanding of the different projects the Data Center is involved with, and at the same time, it helps to clearly identify resources that are being used effectively as well as those that could be used more effectively. Moving forward, they will be able to better plan projects with a clearer understanding of their existing project commitments, including the human resources assigned to each of them.

Each project that is lead, whether it is in the strategic plan or internal to the Data Center, will now adhere to these principles:

  • All Data Center projects must follow a standard process based on the PMO Project Management template (scaled by project)
  • The Data Center will create and utilized a project FullKit (standard processes that each project will follow regardless of size or timeframe)
  • The Data Center will create standard project templates to be used for all projects
  • The Data Center will track projects based on LEAN processes (including Takt Board, FullKit)

State Leadership Of The Year Award Goes To Pat Snow!


Pat Snow was one of eight state information technology leaders whose efforts were recognized by the industry magazine State Scoop Sunday evening at the mid-year conference of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers being held in Washington, DC.

 Each of the eight was individually recognized and presented with the prestigious State Leadership of the Year award. In comments following the award ceremony Pat thanked those who had nominated him for the award and the many peers who had voted for him, saying, “It is humbling to be recognized by those whose efforts I respect and admire. I thank all who felt I was worthy of this award.”

The award ceremony was witnessed and reported to Pat’s friends and peers in South Dakota by Jim Edman who commented “Pat richly deserves this award. Within South Dakota his understanding of technology and his leadership are widely respected. It is a heartwarming testament to Pat that his peers around the country also recognize and respect the quality of his efforts”. While absent from the gathering, David Zolnowsky noted “Pat is an outstanding technology leader, with a discriminating eye for assessing new or evolving technology innovations. As suggested by this award, his counsel is sought by many.”

Congratulations, Pat! BIT is lucky to have you!

In Case Your Phone Is Lost Or Stolen

Did you know approximately 2 million smartphones are stolen each year in the United States? If your mobile phone or tablet (State-issued or personal phone which accesses State data) is lost or stolen, please remember to immediately report the incident …

When was the last time you changed your Apple ID password?

Although Apple will not substantiate claims that the Turkish Crime Family has the usernames and passwords of hundreds of millions iCloud and Apple email accounts, your Apple ID password should be changed as soon as possible, and certainly should be c…

BIT Development’s Lean Initiative

 In 2016, BIT Development was tasked with learning and implementing lean methodologies. So, what is “lean”? Simply put, it is the pursuit of continuous improvement for any process to maximize value and minimize waste. The result improves the quality of products and services, which benefits the customer (agency).

The basic principles of lean are:

  • Focus on effectively delivering value to your customer
  • Respect and engage people
  • Improve the value stream by eliminating all types of waste
  • Maintain flow
  • Pull through the system
  • Strive for perfection

A few months ago, BIT Development was involved in their first LEAN process improvement event. The process that was picked was the Initial Estimate phase for Development’s Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) . Not only were teams from BIT Development involved, the Department of Revenue was asked to participate so the group could get the “agency perspective” on initial estimates for IT Development work requests. While process improvement may seem like an easy thing to do, it involves a lot of pre- and post- work along with the intense work that happens during the event.

The pre-work involved in a process improvement event includes:

  • meeting with the event contributors,
  • creating the charter and defining scope, 
  • obtaining a collaboration area for the duration of the event, and 
  • making sure all the necessary supplies have been gathered.

The contributors gathered input from other members of their perspective teams on the Initial Estimate process. What was discovered during that first day of work was that everyone does it differently – even within teams.

The work for the event was an intense three-day “stuck-in-a-room-and-can’t-leave” hashing out of what goes on in everyone’s Initial Estimate process. Ally Shepardson, a collaborator from Daktronics, was the event facilitator. Naturally, not all participants were looking forward to spending three days in a room.

“Participating in the LEAN event with Ally was surprising to me. Going into the event, I did not feel especially zealous about Initial Estimates. By the end of it, however, I was truly committed to what we were trying to accomplish. I felt rewarded from our hard work and dedicated to seeing this project succeed. I was inspired by the passion of everyone in that room to improve not only Initial Estimates, but BIT in general. Working with others helped me understand why continual improvement is so important and gave me a glimpse of what BIT could become, if we work together to accomplish our goals.” – Elise Bunkers, Development Team 6

The event is designed to finish as many deliverables as possible in the space of three days, but the work didn’t stop after the event was over. Everyone had tasks to accomplish: creating a new diagram for the Initial Estimate process, creating a template for the division to use when they meet with the agency, getting a new list of requirements that were needed for IT Priorities and the work order tracking system (WoTS) so that metrics could be tracked and finally creating the training for the Initial Estimate process.

Working intensely on improving the Initial Estimate provided other benefits beyond improving a process. Team members had the opportunity to get to know each other better and now they feel more comfortable reaching out to people outside their own teams.

“Participating in the Initial Estimate LEAN event was a rewarding experience. Watching the collaborative effort put forth by all team members to improve the estimate process was exciting. As ideas were exchanged, new and improved processes were identified and even the participating client from an agency could attest to how the changes would improve their planning and forecasting. Additionally, as a fairly new employee to BIT, the LEAN Initial Estimate event allowed me to interact with other BIT employees not a part of my current team. I have been able to continue these relationships and ask for their assistance when I have needed their expertise in my current position.” – Heidi Brosz, Development Team 4

Below: Working through what everyone does for the Initial Estimate

(Note: the blue box represents the original process – the green is what the process looks like after being redesigned by the team)

Rick Love Has Left The Building!

Rick Love first came to BIT in 2000 as a Systems Programmer working on the AS/400 platform for Wayne Lauck in the BIT Data Center and left BIT in the fall of 2003 to try his luck as a Vegas AS/400 programmer and part-time blackjack dealer. Apparently life in South Dakota was better than in Vegas or on the other side of the black-jack table because he elected to return to BIT in the summer of 2006 as an Associate Systems Programmer working for Wayne Hayden-Moreland.

While working in Operations, Rick was lucky enough to be involved in such activities as an emergency migration from an old microfiche printer to the newer model – which culminated with an ugly 1 ½ day slough through the world of troubleshooting electro-mechanical-chemical-printing. Enlivened by his success in the world of film-based printing, Rick was keen to expand his skills in the printing area. He next “volunteered” to be involved with the replacement of two 6262 impact printers with newer IP6500 impact printers in the Aberdeen Print Center. This project made it possible for BIT to continue to provide DLR their needed print support. Rick was also fortunate to have had the opportunity during this period in his career to work on a couple of interesting contracts including one for a new burster and another for a fire suppression vendor.

In 2012, Rick decided to see how things worked on the other side of the fence. He started working with Tony Rae on such processes as E-discovery under Mimosa, RAD, OWA, and Active Sync where he played a major part in setting up and documenting all of these systems and their processes. It was also during this timeframe that Rick had the less than pleasant task of contacting all our email users with the largest accounts to give them suggestions on how to reduce their mailbox size. Many of the users didn’t know that their mailbox was as large as it was and appreciated the self-help guidance Rick provided. But not everyone agreed that space management was really an end-user role. As a result of this less than wonderful task, and he used his work ethic to complete the job on time and ahead of schedule even with a lack of email administration experience. His work ethic was one of the hall marks of Rick’s career.

In 2013, Rick was reunited with AS/400 administration returning to the position that he had left ten years earlier reporting to Scott Kromarek. While in this role, Rick has used his extensive knowledge of the AS/400 operating system to complete multiple upgrades and migrations and train a handful of other employees in the area of AS/400 administration. Rick’s new duties under Scott also included the UNIX platform as an administrator on the three AIX systems that BIT currently supports. Not content to stick with just two platforms, Rick also took on duties in the Windows world as an administrator for both TSM (a backup product) and Control-M (the distributed scheduler system). He was involved in the implementation of Control-M as well as its daily use at BIT including multiple upgrades to both products.

Rick has always been someone who saw the clear value in sharing his skills and knowledge with others and even kicked it up a notch or three over the past couple of years as he trained his successors in preparation for his retirement.

In the past year, Rick played an instrumental part in the server role swap of the Lottery AS/400 system, proving the viability of the high-availability features of the system configuration. True to his “can-do” attitude even in his last few months with BIT, Rick took on new products. For example, he implemented IBM License Metric Tool (ILMT) to allow BIT to license IBM’s Windows products at a virtual level rather than a physical one. Also, because of his experience with InfoPrint, JetForms, and Revenue title printing, he was involved in the selection and installation of a product called, Print Manager which now bills for Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) forms. During his final month with BIT, Rick continued to provide valuable insight during the DOC COMS upgrade. And to cap it all off, Rick elected to complete his SANS online security training one more time even though the due date of the training was AFTER his planned retirement date.

Not a lot is known about the private life of James “Rick” Love, so a few tidbits of information was gleaned from his Facebook page. It turns out that Rick’s hometown is Iowa Falls, Iowa. He graduated from Washington High School in 1968 and from Southeast Tech in 1989. Rick has a brother named Bart and sister named Joy. More widely known is that Rick worked at Gateway for a while before coming to BIT. He enjoys fishing year-round, has frequently forayed into hunting (at least coyotes and turkeys), and is a generous supporter of the American Red Cross.

Whether Rick spends more time on the hobbies already listed or decides to try his hand at new ones, we wish him the best of luck and good health as he begins the stage of his life where he can list his occupation as “retired”.

Thank you, Rick, for having been such a valuable and positive team member for all of us at BIT. We wish you all the best. You will be missed.

The Cursed Know No Rest By Roger Reed

Long-time BIT employee, Roger Reed, has recently published his third book, The Cursed Know No Rest, with Amazon.com. The title for the book comes from the first story which is about the first sheriff of Granite City. The sheriff is an outlaw who took over the town before being cursed by a local Native American. The sheriff is now a zombie and cannot truly die until he redeems himself. As with the other two books, this is a collection of superhero stories. 

Roger enjoys thinking up and writing these stories and plans to continue doing so until he runs out of ideas. He keeps a notepad nearby for when inspiration strikes him. He jots down whatever story ideas, characters, and super power ideas that pop into his head. If one or more really captures his attention, he works them into a story. Normally he has no problem working ideas into stories, but sometimes it isn’t so easy. The first story he started on for his first book had a great initial situation with a heroine being kidnapped by a villain who was out for revenge, but then he couldn’t come up with how to proceed or what the villain actually does to the heroine. It took him a year and a half to come up with the idea of how to finish that story off.

While he tries to make all of the characters interesting, many times he has more fun writing about the villains than the heroes. He tries to make all of the characters stand out from each other, particularly the villains. Some are people who glory in the destruction they cause, others are out to kill people and superheroes, still others are on a mission, while some do what they want regardless of what people say about them. They are more fun to write about since they have fewer restrictions on what they do than the heroes who are limited by the laws of that version of America.

In addition to making the characters stand out from each other, he makes each story different from the others. While some are the normal action-packed hero vs. villain stories, others are more about people put into difficult situations and the people just happen to have super powers. For instance, the story that took 18 months to write is mostly about the heroine’s family coping with her loss and moving on. Book 2 had a story about a little girl who was fighting cancer. In a story he currently is working on for book 4, the main characters are teenaged superheroes who get caught up in a cult. That story has very little action in it and is more about how the characters deal with their situation along with the family dynamics involved.

In addition to superheroes, some of his stories feature wizards and other supernatural characters such as vampires and werewolves. He hasn’t written about aliens, elves, and dwarves, but he hasn’t ruled out incorporating them into his literary universe at a future date.

Roger plans to have a book signing down at Prairie Pages later this spring when the weather is more dependable.

Employees of the Quarter!


Brent Dowling

Brent currently serves as the Technology Architect for the Data Center Integration team. Brent has been working for the State since June of 1996, starting with Computer Support Services servicing Windows desktops. After two years of desktop support, Brent became one of the charter members of the BIT Integration Team along with Pat Snow and David Smith. After working for several years as a team member of the Integration Team, Brent became the manager of the Integration team in 2004. In 2012 when the Technology Engineer banding was put in place, Brent was able to benefit from the new options that opened up and chose to accept the job role of a TE5, otherwise known as an Architect role. (Not to be confused with the same role in the movie series, The Matrix. J)

Over the years, Brent has become known for his flexibility and tenacity when it comes to understanding/implementing new technologies and solving problems with those technologies. Brent seems to thrive on a good challenge, coming up with ideas and solutions under tight time-lines. One of Brent’s most recent endeavors along these lines was to help research, choose and implement a multifactor authentication software to satisfy IRS (and other federal agencies) requirements. The timeframe from start of the multifactor project to implementation has been on a very aggressive schedule.

Other accomplishments of note are:

  • Pioneer of the K12 Data Center
  •  Primary designer of BIT’s Storage/Backup/Compute infrastructure for the last 10 years.
  • Overhaul/Redesign of the State’s email system 
  • One of BIT’s major business negotiators

Brent grew up near Draper, SD on his father’s ranch and farm. He attended high school at Jones County in Murdo. He attended Dakota State University on a track scholarship and obtained a BS in computer science in May of 1996. In fact, if you care to look, Brent is still listed in the track and field records book at DSU. http://www.dsuathletics.com/f/0/6/Mens_Track/Outdoor_Records.php

Brent currently lives in Pierre with his wife, Donna. Brent and Donna have two children, Courtney and Justin. In addition to his duties at BIT, Brent is also part-time farmer. He partners with his father and brother in the farming operation.

Dallas Thompson 

Dallas Thompson serves as a Technology Engineer III for the Division of Telecommunications within the Bureau of Information and Telecommunications. Dallas began his journey with state government in March of 1994.

Dallas’ primary focus as a Technology Engineer III consists of dealing with technology in schools, network operations, networking, and telecommunication circuits. During the summer of 2016, Dallas was the project manager for the network upgrades. The upgrades came as part of the Communications Transport RFP which included connecting more than 800 sites to the DDN.

With Dallas’s guidance, 400+ circuit orders were completed going from a price change to a bandwidth upgrade. Upgrades for State Government and K12 schools were completed from June – October. The Network Team performed 416 total equipment upgrades and bandwidth upgrades across 242 physical sites and traveled 26,861 total miles.

Dallas is easy to work with, remains flexible with his workload and schedule, and is always willing to help, making him a perfect candidate for the employee of the quarter award.

Outside of work, Dallas enjoys fishing, hunting, camping, and woodworking. He also enjoys spending time with his five grandchildren.

Jeff Meyer

Jeff Meyer has made Development’s goals of measured improvement possible. His initial work on the Work Tracking System WoTS project, his creation of a data warehouse during the second release, and his leadership in the integrations and data quality work with the Develop Managers has been absolutely pivotal to pushing the division through the uncertainty to a point where it can begin ACTUALLY improving.

He has done all this work on top of attempting to make the architecture review process meaningful. This has required him to lead difficult conversations with management and staff who, honestly, would rather the process just be another paper dragon – meaningless in real life. Rather than alienate people, Jeff has taken it upon himself to engage even his most onerous competitors on their grounds rather than simply call them “wrong”.

Jeff has taken a great deal of risk, and has delivered in spades during difficult and chaotic times. His continued support and drive will be pivotal to our own continued gains.

Martie Stulken Celebrates 40 Years Of Dedicated Service To BIT And The Citizens Of South Dakota!


Martie started as a seasonal employee with DOT in May 1976 while attending college at South Dakota State University where she majored in Spanish and minored in Music and History. In June of 1979, she moved to Pierre to work as a programmer for the Department of Social Services System Development team.

When she married the love of her life, Dean, on July 26, 1980, she also gained two sons. Dean and Martie added another son, Matthew, in 1994.

During the I/T consolidation in 1996, Martie was moved to BIT’s Development Team 4. In her 40 years with the State, Martie has been under seven different managers and has had the pleasure of working on every floor in the Kneip Building.

To name a few, Martie has been a leader on the following projects:

  • Cobol Versioning 
  • Natural Upgrades 
  • Disaster Recoveries Natural Engineer 
  • HIX 
  • Deloitte 
  • DSS Payrolls 
  • Direct Deposit 
  • Broker / Connect Direct

Martie is not only good at her job, but passionate about it, too! Her leadership, dedication, and her ability to always be there when you need her makes Martie such a valuable asset to BIT. Although 40 years in itself is quite the accomplishment, we are hoping she will stay with us until the 50 year mark and set a record J.

In her free time, Martie enjoys music, her dogs, and attending her grandchildren’s activities.

Thank you for your years of service, Martie! BIT is so fortunate to have you!

South Dakota Public Broadcasting’s Montage Masterfully Depicts SoDak Living

The folks at South Dakota Public Broadcasting have put together a montage to showcase the State of South Dakota and its many diverse attractions and activities. From the Buffalo Round-Up at Custer State Park to the Sturgis Rally, South Dakota has much …

SDPB Receives A.H. Pankow Award!

Lieutenant Governor Matt Michaels and the South Dakota Department of Tourism presented awards to top tourism industry leaders at the 2017 Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Pierre.

The A. H. Pankow Award, which honors a media outlet or individual member of the media for unparalleled coverage and promotion of the state’s visitor industry, was awarded to South Dakota Public Broadcasting. The organization has continuously produced programming that has focused on the unique beauty and culture of South Dakota including shows like “Soaring South Dakota” and “Dakota Savor”, a new program that looks at South Dakota’s food, wine and brew offerings.

“We are thankful for South Dakota Public Broadcasting’s passion and continuous promotion of our state’s history, arts, destinations and way of life,” stated the Lt. Governor.

The South Dakota Department of Tourism is comprised of Tourism and the South Dakota Arts Council. The department is led by Secretary James D. Hagen.

BIT’s Second Annual Soup-Off!


BIT held its second annual Soup-Off on Thursday, February 2nd. Many delicious soups, full bellies, and contestants later, three contestants were able to climb their way to the top.

Rochelle Hyde took 1st place with her Cheesy Chicken Tortilla Soup, Wayne Wayt stole second place with his Hot Chili recipe, and Betty Hanson scored third with her Bacon Cheeseburger soup! Luckily for us, the three top chefs were gracious enough to share their award winning recipes!

Rochelle’s Cheesy Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 1 envelope Taco Seasoning
  • 1-½ pound Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, Diced
  • ½ cups Chopped Onion
  • 2 T Butter
  • ⅓ Cups Flour
  • 4 Cups Broth, Chicken or Vegetable
  • 8-12 oz. 2% Milk Velveeta, cubed
  • 8 oz. Shredded Monterey Jack or Mexican 4 Cheese Blend Shredded Cheese
  • 1 Jar Salsa (any variety)
  • 1 Cup Half and Half or Milk
  • Fritos, Green Onion, and Sour Cream (for garnish)

In a skillet, add seasoning and diced chicken. Cook until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Drain, and set aside. (Or cook chicken and toss with seasoning mix.)

In large saucepan (or pot), sauté onion in butter for 2 minutes. Stir in flour until blended. Gradually stir in the broth. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for two minutes longer, or until thickened slightly. Add Velveeta, shredded cheese and salsa. Cook on medium-low until cheese is melted.

Stir in half and half. Add the chicken back in. Stir. Heat through but do not boil. Remove from heat. Garnish with Fritos (you can also use guacamole, sour cream, and green onions). Enjoy!

Wayne’s Hot Chili

  • Approximately 1½ – 2 Cups Chopped Onion
  • Approximately 1½ – 2 Cups of a combination of Chopped Green, Red, and Yellow Sweet Bell Peppers
  • 1 Pound Italian Pork Sausage
  • 1 Pound Hamburger
  • 2 16 oz. Cans Hot Chili Beans (Bushes)
  • 2 8 oz. Cans Tomato Sauce
  • 1½ – 2 cups Diced Fresh Tomato ( 1 large or 2 medium or 5 Small Vine Ripened))
  • 1 – 4 oz. Can Chopped Jalapeno Pepper (or approximately ½ Cup Chopped Hatch Green Chiles)
  • 1 – 4 oz. Can Diced Green Chili Pepper
  • 3 t. Chili Powder
  • ½ t. Cumin
  • 1 – Water – see instructions

Prepare the onion, bell peppers, and tomatoes and have them ready to add to the pot. Open all cans and have them ready to add to the pot. Mix the raw Italian pork sausage and hamburger together. Brown sausage and hamburger, mix in frying pan, and then drain. Place the diced tomatoes in a 4 quart pot and then add the browned sausage and hamburger mix.

Add beans, tomato sauce, diced green chili peppers, and chopped jalapeno peppers and stir (do not rinse or dispose of cans at this time). Add the chopped bell peppers and onion. Stir.

Fill one tomato sauce can approximately 1/3 full with hot water. Stir then transfer to other tomato sauce can, stir, and then transfer to bean cans repeating process. Add this water to chili and stir. (Heat with burner set to medium heat- based on stove this may vary).

Add chili powder and cumin. Stir. Stir often while heating.

When steam appears (do not boil), cover the pot and turn heat to simmer for at least 1½ hours (stir occasionally – approximately every 10-15 minutes at first checking heat then approximately every half hour). Allowing the chili to simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours enriches the flavor. Note: if chili bubbles rapidly while simmering, turn down the heat and stir. A very mild, slow bubbling is preferred.

Betty’s Bacon Cheeseburger Soup

  • 1.5 lbs. Hamburger
  • 1 Package Real Bacon Bits
  • 1 Cup Chopped Onion
  • 1 ½ Teaspoon Dried Basil
  • 1 ½ Teaspoon Dried Parsley
  • 1/3 Cup Butter
  • 5 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 6 Cups Cubed Potatoes
  • 1/3 Cup Flour
  • 1 Cup of Cubed Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1/3 Cups Milk
  • 1/3 Cup Sour Cream (optional)

Melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Cook onions and hamburger until hamburger is brown.

Stir in basil, parsley, bacon bits, broth and potatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes are tender.

Melt butter and stir in flour. Combine with milk.

Gradually add milk and butter mixture to the soup stirring constantly. Add cheese to soup and continue stirring until cheese is melted.

Stir in sour cream. It’s ready to eat!

When asked why they chose to make the soups they did, Rochelle responded:

Every year my husband’s side of the family have their annual Christmas Soup Supper. Everyone brings a soup to share. I wanted to try a new soup other than the ones I’ve brought in the past. One day while pinning I ran across this recipe. Sounded delicious and decided that’s what I was bringing to the Garrigan/Hyde Soup Supper. It was hit, first soup gone usually indicates it was a winner and everyone said it was absolutely delicious. When the BIT Soup off was announced it was a no brainer, I thought let’s give this another shot and see if my “BIT Family” likes it as well.

Wayne explained, “I chose this one because not only can it be spicy it has great flavor. Also, it was cold and who doesn’t like a hot bowl of chili?” Betty went on to add, “I was debating on bringing either chicken tortilla or cheeseburger soup, everyone seemed to like my cheeseburger soup, so I made it again this year.”

All three winners were shocked that their soups had won. Rochelle explained, “Of course I was shocked. There were some really good soups, and some tremendous cooks that work for BIT. My husband said all along, you’re going to win. However, he’s one of my biggest fans when it comes to my cooking.” Wayne went on to say “Yes, a little. With a wide range to people tasting, and not knowing everyone’s spice heat tolerance, it is a little difficult to determine the right amount of spice to put into the soup.” And Betty joked, “I was very shocked because there were so many awesome soups this year. I have a huge dislike for beans, sorry Wayne I didn’t try your chili.”

Congratulations you three! Looking forward to next year’s competition!

Please Welcome New Employee, Bernie Cruser!


Bernie has recently joined the BIT family as a Computer Support Specialist. Originally from Granite Falls, Minnesota, Bernie attended college at Lake Area Tech in Watertown, South Dakota where he majored in Electronic Systems Technology.

Prior to working at BIT, Bernie worked at Daktronics in Brookings, South Dakota. Bernie explained, “For just over 10 years, I worked in many different departments; New Product Testing, Help Desk, On-Site Installation, and Customer Service Repair Center technician and finally Supervisor. One main highlight was my on-site scoreboard support for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.”

Bernie is most looking forward to meeting and working with lots of new people as well as facing challenging and rewarding issues. In his free time, you can find Bernie spending time with his family. He explains, “Being the father of a 3 year old son and a 5 month old baby girl, I keep plenty busy. But I wouldn’t change a thing!”

Welcome to BIT, Bernie! We are excited to have you!

Please Welcome New Employee Evan Wempe!

Evan Wempe has recently joined the BIT family as a LAN Services Technician. Evan is a native to Pierre and attended SDSU where he studied computer science. Prior to working at BIT, he was a car salesman at Gateway Ford in Pierre. Evan is most looking …

State Tech Magazine Lists BIT’s Blog as one of the 30 Must-Read State and Local IT Blogs 2016


State Tech Magazine recently released an article entitled “30 Must-Read State and Local IT Blogs 2016.” The article is posted annually and contains a list of top blogs covering relevant trends, news, analysis and general information on state and local government IT.

State Tech explains, “This year, we’re seeing a rise in blogs that touch on smart cities and city revitalization in general. Also, several state IT departments have stepped up to leverage their blogs as engagement and education platforms, especially as they have undergone department-wide centralization and consolidation efforts.”

Any guesses on who made the list? You’ve got it- the BIT blog!

State tech describes BIT’s blog as:

“Home to Mount Rushmore, buffalo and plenty of fresh air, South Dakota boasts another thing that’s refreshing: the state’s IT department. In its blog, the group positions itself as accessible and friendly, and speaks to citizens in a conversational tone. For example, this post that literally shows the softer side of one of the state’s team members, who sews quilts. Given the rep that many in technology have of not being approachable, blogs like this help to ensure that IT is viewed as a collaborator with other agencies.”

So what makes BIT’s blog a “must- read”? Essentially, its employees! From drag racing, to soup competitions, to employee of the quarter, to chocolate making, we have plenty of variety! In addition to the personal features, the BIT blog also includes a lot of technology items as well. These items range from time saving tips to information on new technology with one end goal in mind: to help state employees do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.

So please, if you have anything you think is pretty groovy, send your ideas to BIT’s Communications and Social Media Manager, Jessica Gebert. Let’s break the stereotype and show our audience that we are far more than just computer geeks :).

 The full article from State Tech can be viewed here:
http://www.statetechmagazine.com/article/2016/12/30-must-read-state-and-local-it-blogs-2016

State Tech Magazine Lists BIT’s Blog as one of the 30 “Must-Read State and Local IT Blogs 2016”

State Tech Magazine Lists BIT’s Blog as one of the 30 Must-Read State and Local IT Blogs 2016


State Tech Magazine recently released an article entitled “30 Must-Read State and Local IT Blogs 2016.” The article is posted annually and contains a list of top blogs covering relevant trends, news, analysis and general information on state and local government IT.

State Tech explains, “This year, we’re seeing a rise in blogs that touch on smart cities and city revitalization in general. Also, several state IT departments have stepped up to leverage their blogs as engagement and education platforms, especially as they have undergone department-wide centralization and consolidation efforts.”

Any guesses on who made the list? You’ve got it- the BIT blog!

State tech describes BIT’s blog as:

“Home to Mount Rushmore, buffalo and plenty of fresh air, South Dakota boasts another thing that’s refreshing: the state’s IT department. In its blog, the group positions itself as accessible and friendly, and speaks to citizens in a conversational tone. For example, this post that literally shows the softer side of one of the state’s team members, who sews quilts. Given the rep that many in technology have of not being approachable, blogs like this help to ensure that IT is viewed as a collaborator with other agencies.”

So what makes BIT’s blog a “must- read”? Essentially, its employees! From drag racing, to soup competitions, to employee of the quarter, to chocolate making, we have plenty of variety! In addition to the personal features, the BIT blog also includes a lot of technology items as well. These items range from time saving tips to information on new technology with one end goal in mind: to help state employees do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.

So please, if you have anything you think is pretty groovy, send your ideas to BIT’s Communications and Social Media Manager, Jessica Gebert. Let’s break the stereotype and show our audience that we are far more than just computer geeks :).

 The full article from State Tech can be viewed here:
http://www.statetechmagazine.com/article/2016/12/30-must-read-state-and-local-it-blogs-2016

State Tech Magazine Lists BIT’s Blog as one of the 30 “Must-Read State and Local IT Blogs 2016”

South Dakota’s First Virtual Reality User Group!

On January 21st fellow BIT Employee and VR enthusiast, Chad Severson, will be organizing the first South Dakota Virtual Reality User Group. His first experience with Virtual Reality was Epcot in Walt Disney World in 1998. “It was the very early days of VR, graphics were very basic and consisted of few colors but you could tell that it had a future. The only question was when,” Chad explained when commenting about this first experience.

Chad will be presenting a series of talks titled, “Introduction to Virtual Reality: Is ‘Virtual Reality’ A Fad or Here to Stay?” The first user group meeting aims to answer the following questions:

  • What is Virtual Reality (VR)?
  • What steps need to be taken to begin exploring this new world? 
  • What industries can benefit from the use of this technology? 
  • Will VR technology remain relevant in the coming years or will it fade away like it has in the past?

This will help those interested demystify this technology and show others how Virtual Reality can change many industries including education, entertainment, psychological science as well as gaming. There will also be chances to try out Virtual Reality.

Find out all of this as well as how you can keep up to date with all the latest developments in VR by attending this talk at 1:00pm on January 21st at Lariat Lanes in Pierre, South Dakota.

You can sign up and find more information at SouthDakotaVR.org

Please Welcome New Employee, Stephanie Riggle!

Stephanie Riggle recently joined BIT as an Accountant/Auditor I. Originally from Eagle Butte, Stephanie has lived in Dupree and Watertown – where she attended high school.

Stephanie earned her business degree online from the University of Phoenix where she studied business with an emphasis in accounting. Prior to working for BIT, Stephanie worked for the Bureau of Administration’s Division of Property Management as the asset accountant. Prior to that, she worked at Oahe Federal Credit Union as a loan officer.

Stephanie is most excited to expand her knowledge of the industry while working at BIT. When not taking care of her 4 month old, 8 year old daughter, and 10 year old stepdaughter, Stephanie enjoys reading, playing games, doing puzzles, scrapbooking and “of course cleaning.”

Welcome to BIT, Stephanie! We are happy to have you!

How To Share Microsoft Excel Spreadsheets


Have you ever been working with an Excel document that needed to be accessed by multiple people? Often it is possible to grant access to these people, but only one person is able to edit. Here’s a simple trick to avoid that problem!

Step 1:

  • In your Microsoft Excel document, click the File tab on the upper left hand corner of the screen and select Options from the left side menu.
  • A new tab will open. Select Trust Center and then Trust Center Settings.
  • A new tab will open. Select Privacy Options on the lower left hand of the column and then under Document-specific settings make sure “Remove personal information from file properties on save.” is unchecked. Press Ok.

Step 2:

  • Under the Review tab at the top of the Excel worksheet, click on Share Workbook.

  • A new tab will open. Make sure there is a check mark next to the box that states “Allow changes by more than one user at the same time.”


And there you have it! Now you can share Microsoft Excel spreadsheets without the worry of being unable to edit content due to multiple users at the same time!

New Device? Check Your CyberSecurity

From the Desk of Thomas F. Duffy, Chair

Last month, we talked about how you can minimize your risk of identity theft and malicious cyber activity while doing your online holiday shopping. In this month’s issue, we’ll focus on another aspect of the holiday season: that new device you get or give during the holidays. Whether it’s a smartphone, laptop, desktop, tablet, or another device, check out the below tips to help you protect your new technology and secure your personal data.
  • Configure your device with security in mind. The “out-of-the-box” configurations of many devices and software are default settings often geared more toward ease-of-use and extra features rather than securing your device to protect your information. Enable security settings, paying particular attention to those that control information sharing.
  • Change the device’s password – the default passwords for many brands of devices are well known to hackers. 
  • Remember to secure your Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Internet of Things devices include smart home thermostats, home surveillance cameras, smart refrigerators, lights, and many other examples. These need to be secured just like your phones, tablets, and laptops. One way to do this is to change the default password that comes pre-configured on the device to a strong password of your own choosing. This makes it much harder for cyber criminals to compromise your household devices.
  • Turn on your firewall. Firewalls provide an essential function of protecting your computer or device from potentially malicious actors. Without a firewall, you might be exposing your personal information to any computer on the internet.
  • Lock the device. Locking your device with a strong PIN or password makes unauthorized access to your information more difficult. Passwords are more secure than PINs and should be at least 8 characters long combining upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. If you have an Android device and want to use a lock screen pattern, make sure the pattern includes at least 7 points and doubles back over itself (e.g. at least 2 turns). Additionally, make sure that your device automatically locks after a brief period of inactivity, preferably between 30 seconds and two minutes. This way, if you misplace your device, you minimize the opportunity for someone to access your personal information.
  • Regularly apply updates. Manufacturers and application developers update their code to fix weaknesses and push out the updates. Enable settings to automatically apply these updates to ensure that you’re fixing the identified weaknesses in the applications.
  • Install antivirus software. Install antivirus software if it is available for your device and enable automatic updating of the antivirus software to incorporate the most recently identified threats.
  • Disable unwanted and unneeded services. Capabilities such as Bluetooth, network connections, mobile wallets, and Near Field Communications provide ease and convenience in using your smartphone. They can also provide an easy way for a nearby, unauthorized user to gain access to your data. Turn these features off when they are not needed. Also consider disabling or uninstalling other features or apps that you no longer use.
  • Be careful when downloading apps. Apps provide a lot of wonderful capabilities for your device, but they are a common way that malicious actors disseminate malware or gather information about you. Always make sure you trust the app provider and download the app from the Google Play Store, Apple’s App Store, or other trusted source, as they proactively remove known malicious apps to protect users. Be proactive and make sure that you read the privacy statement, review permissions, check the app reviews, and look online to see if any security company has identified the app as malicious.
  • Set up a non-privileged account for general web use. Privileged (such as Administrator or Root) accounts allow you to make changes in how your device operates, but a compromised administrator account provides attackers with the authority to access anything on your device. Use a non-privileged account when browsing websites and checking emails.
  • Maintain your device’s security. Remember that setting your device to be secure is great, but you have to keep those settings, as well. It may be tempting to do away with some of the security, such as a lock screen password, or allowing the settings to change when you get an app update, but that puts your device and information at risk.
By using caution and following these tips, you can help secure your new device and protect your information. Have a safe, secure, and joyous holiday season!
Citation:

Make Your Agency’s Intranet Page YOUR Home Page!

With the exception of a few agencies, when you open your internet browser you will be immediately directed to the State’s Home Page.

Recently, some agencies have been looking into the option of the internet browser defaulting to their agency’s intranet website. Department of Health happens to be one of the more recent agencies to make this conversion. When asked why they went this route, Barb Buhler explained:

“The goal of the switch is really to drive staff to the DOH Intranet and the resources that are posted there. We’ve made a concerted effort to add information staff need and have asked for (policies, fiscal forms, ACES guides, etc.) and wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to find it. Also, in spite of the fact there is a link to our Intranet in the footer of our main website, some staff commented it was hard to find. J This whole effort is just one part of a larger internal communications objective identified in our department strategic plan and our workgroup is continuing to look at expanding resources on the intranet.”

Barb later joked, “So far the response has been positive – one person commented they appreciate the easy access to our Intranet site but missed the “pretty pictures” on the state’s home page!”

While there might be a lot of other persuasive reasons to consider relinking your agency’s home page to it’s personal intranet- the point of this article is to inform you that the option exists! If you have further questions on how to go about this route, please contact your BIT Point of Contact (POC). They will be happy to assist you!

Employees of the Quarter!

Eric Swiggum

Eric Swiggum serves as a Database Administrator (DBA) focused on SQL database administration and support in the BIT Data Center DBA Team. Eric started with BIT in December 2012 as a SQL Server DBA and quickly learned the ropes in his new position. Eric came to BIT as an experienced technologist with a focus on database technology from the perspective of a business intelligence developer. Included in his background was a diverse knowledge in database technologies outside of SQL Server including IBM DB2, Oracle & Teradata. Eric also had prior experience administrating SQL Server, Informatica and enterprise scheduling software.

Over the past 20 months Eric has been converting workflow packages in SQL Server DTS* (Data Transformation Services packages) to SQL SSIS (Server Integration Services packages), working with developers as needed to get these packages converted. A majority of Eric’s efforts in this work have been focused on converting the legacy Visual Basic 6 script to Visual Basic .Net script. There were more than 450 packages to convert and this was a manual effort. A factor that increased the difficulty of this conversion was coordinating with all the different groups, developers and end-users. At times it was even difficult to find anyone in BIT that was familiar with the legacy DTS packages. Undaunted, he reached out to end users with knowledge of the processes involved to understand the business requirements of the code so that he could be sure to convert it while maintaining its functionality.

*DTS packages are a legacy facility replaced by SSIS packages and there is no automated migration available. 

The DTS to SSIS conversion is important as future versions of SQL Server will not support DTS packages. Normally this is the type of work a developer would take care of but development could not spare the resources for this project and the estimate provided by a service provider to perform the migration for BIT was nearly $200,000. Instead of costing the tax payers such a hefty fee, Eric volunteered to apply his development skills he brought to BIT and perform this work himself as time permitted, saving our citizens a tidy sum of money and allowing Development to stay focused on other client engagements.

Shawn England


Shawn England serves as a Technology Engineer III for the division of Telecommunications within the Bureau of Information and Telecommunications. Shawn began his journey with state government in September of 2009, briefly left for a couple of years to work for the Pierre School District, and was hired back at BIT in June of 2012.

Shawn’s primary focus as a Technology Engineer III consists of dealing with technology in schools, Fortinet, security, networking, servers, and wireless. About 2 years ago, Shawn proposed implementing a Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), which is a standardized exterior designed to exchange routing and reachability information which amount to autonomous systems (AS) on the Internet.

It was quite evident from the start that Shawn was willing to invest time into analyzing BIT’s current technology as well as researching telecommunications provider technology. This solution came as part of the Communications Transport RFP which included connecting more than 800 sites to the DDN. Shawn evaluated features of network infrastructure hardware which allowed BIT to consolidate the on-site infrastructure from three devices to one. This effort has allowed BIT to save one-time and ongoing costs.

In addition to heading this effort, Shawn has stepped into a leadership role in the security and network areas within the last year at BIT. Shawn is easy to work with and always willing to help, making him a perfect candidate for the employee of the quarter award.

Outside of work, Shawn enjoys playing trombone, shaving “old-school-style” with lather and a brush,

and bicycling. He can also be found building cardboard box forts with his daughter, Bentley, drinking cold brew coffee and discussing school politics.

Susan Dutt

Susan’s primary day-to-day responsibilities include development and support of several DOT applications. One of these is the Concept To Contract (C2C) app, which tracks construction projects from the cradle to the grave. If there’s a DOT construction project in progress, planned, or even completed many years ago, Susan can locate the associated information.

In the fall of 1986, Susan graduated from SDSM&T as a computer science major and became a full-time DOT application developer. This was also around the time the IBM 286 PC (with an actual hard drive) first hit the market. A hard drive was pretty high tech, so she settled with a machine with dual floppies instead.

Susan kept up with the ever changing application development landscape over the years. She started programming in Natural and COBOL, but moved to the cutting edge to develop apps using dbase and DOS commands. Some of her original systems have made the transition from dbase to Access and then to SQL.

While Susan may write or review code once in a while, her main focus over the last few years has been as an analyst and project manager. Understanding the client’s business needs, personalities, and workflows allows her to excel. Many times, she understands the application and workflows better than the people utilizing or requesting the application.

Recently, Susan has acquired the role of scrum master. The scrum master is the facilitator/coach of a team of developers that utilize the scrum development methodology for creating applications. Her most recent Scrum development project is an Environmental Tracking System for DOT. Even though resources have been pulled from the project, she still manages to keep the project pointed in a positive direction.

Susan grew up in Tolstoy, SD–go Greyhounds!–and still spends many weekends there with her mother and other family members to lend a helping hand. She also enjoys reading, cooking, gardening, crocheting, and the occasional cross stitch.

Congratulations Eric, Shawn, and Susan! BIT is happy to have you!

It’s Cyber Monday! Are You Prepared?


How do attackers target online shoppers?

  • Creating fraudulent sites and email messages – Unlike traditional shopping, where you know that a store is actually the store it claims to be, attackers can create fraudulent, malicious websites or email messages that appear to be legitimate. Attackers may also misrepresent themselves as charities, especially after natural disasters or during holiday seasons. Attackers create these malicious sites and email messages to try to convince you to supply personal and financial information.
  • Intercepting insecure transactions – If a vendor does not use encryption, an attacker may be able to intercept your information as it is transmitted. This could include intercepting your name, address, and payment card information.
  • Targeting vulnerable computers – If you do not take steps to protect your computer from viruses, malware or other malicious code, an attacker may be able to gain access to your computer and all of the information on it. It is also important for vendors to protect their computers to prevent attackers from accessing customer databases.


How can you protect yourself?

  • Do business with reputable vendors.
  •  Make sure your information is being encrypted (SSL). Make sure the URL in your browser begins with https: 
  • Be wary of emails requesting personal, credit card, or email information. 
  • Use a credit card – In contrast to using a debit card, the money is subtracted from your bank account directly, making it very hard to get back. With a credit card, you can always dispute the charge.  
  • Check your shopping app settings – Apps on mobile devices sometimes request far too many permissions. Your shopping app wants to access your calendar? We don’t think so. 
  • Check your statements – After entering your credit card information online, most shoppers falsely assume the threat ends here. Unfortunately that’s not always the case. Merchants or someone else may use your information to make additional purchases or charges. · Check privacy policies – Most privacy policies provide an explanation about merchant policies in regards to sharing your data. 

Email Phishing Is Real And Very Dangerous!


In August of 2016 29% of state government employees failed an authorized internal phishing. Nearly 30% of the set of employees tested clicked on a fake link that could have downloaded malware to their computer or compromised it in some manner. This is a serious problem!

The magnitude of this failure indicates we need to increase efforts to educate and inform employees of the significant risks associated with a simple email message. In a typical month, state government receives nearly 10 million email messages, of which over 80% are identified as spam or malicious and are automatically blocked. 8 million are blocked by technical processes! But our automated defenses are insufficient to block all nefarious messages. It is imperative that every employee with an email box be consciously aware of a message before clicking on it and any contents within or attached to the message. The phishing threat occurs within state government every day!

Yes – a simple email message can put at risk all of that confidential data entrusted to us. We must be smart with every message we receive.

Phishing is defined as sending a malicious electronic communication, e-mail, text, etc., and is recognized as the most common attack vector in cyber-crime today. A variation of phishing, spear-phishing, is a more targeted phishing attack aimed at specific organization or group of individuals. The attackers research the organization, seeking names of departments and managers, and use this information to construct emails which appear to be legitimate and authentic.

The very recent data exfiltration’s from the Democratic National Committee and presidential campaign are rumored to have been initiated with a Gmail phishing message. Once the foothold from downloaded malware or compromised credentials is achieved, hackers can ‘leap frog’ from computer to computer looking for valuable data.

Whaling, yet another form of phishing, targets high-level executives with more focused and topically-researched malicious emails. State government has experienced very specific whaling messages being delivered to senior level departmental executives within the past month. Again, the threat is at our front door.

Please, be particularly wary of unexpected emails relating to local, national, and world natural disasters. Hackers frequently use headline-causing events as the subject of their malicious emails, seeking to capitalize on people’s curiosity and empathy. They will construct messages that appear to originate from a charitable organization, but the only people they are interested in helping is themselves.

Telltale signs of a potential phishing email or message include messages from companies you don’t have accounts with, spelling or grammatical mistakes, messages from the wrong email address (e.g. info@yourbank.fakewebsite.com instead of info@yourbank.com), generic greetings (e.g. “Dear user” instead of your name), and unexpected messages with a sense of urgency designed to prompt you into responding quickly providing you no time to verify the information. “Resume” and “Unpaid Invoice” are popular attachments used in phishing campaigns.

Easy tips to protect yourself from phishing:

  • Do not follow links embedded in an unsolicited email. Instead type in the address yourself. Better yet, look up the organization’s main URL and go directly there. Be especially wary of “tiny links”. Very short URLs are commonly used by hackers to hide the actual destination site.
  •  ALWAYS hover over URLs to verify they represent the site they purport to denote. In the example below, the message claims to be from Apple asking the user if a purchase was legitimate. Of course they make it sound like the transaction should be canceled. If you hover over the link of apple.com though, you see the true link for the URL is diligentproperty.com. It is NOT apple.com. 
  • Only open email attachments you’re expecting, even if the email came from your friend. They may already be infected and this could be a malicious email sent by the malware infecting their machine. 
  • Be cautious about container files, such as .zip files, as malicious files could be packed inside. Those files are extremely dangerous and should not be opened. 
  • To verify a suspicious email and/or attachment – forward it to the BIT ReportSpam@state.sd.us mailbox, and we will safely evaluate the contents. 
  • Use antivirus software to detect and disable malicious programs, such as spyware or backdoor Trojans, which may be included in phishing emails. Your state computer is regularly updated with new definitions and features. To facilitate timely installation of these updates, do not delay when you are asked to “Restart” your computer; please do so that day. 
  • Be suspicious of unsolicited emails, text messages, and phone callers. Use discretion when providing information to unsolicited phone callers, and never provide sensitive personal or account information via email. 
  • If you want to verify a suspicious email, contact the organization directly with a known phone number. Do not call the number provided in the email. Or, have the company send you something through the US mail (which scammers won’t do). 
  • Do not send any sensitive personal information via email. Legitimate organizations will not ask users to send information this way.