This week brought new police oversight, COVID-19 tools and a first in ransomware

As protests and national anti-racism movements pressed onward this week, some local governments are enacting new oversight on their law enforcement agencies, with digital technology frequently playing a central role. 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio this week ordered the New York Police Department to release to the public all video and audio footage from officers’ body-worn cameras from incidents in which an officer shoots, kills or seriously injures an individual. The city is also now requiring police to disclose all surveillance technologies, along with descriptions of how they’re used. 

License plate readers, a technology widely used by law enforcement agencies for decades, are meanwhile finding appreciation from officials in some jurisdictions precisely for their ability to sidestep issues of racial profiling or bias.

As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, Virginia offered a hand to its localities this week with the launch of two new digital tools. One helps people find jobs and the other helps municipalities decide where to allocate resources as they respond to the pandemic.

States, meanwhile, are continuing to fight unemployment fraud as they field high numbers of claims, but an investigation by the private investigation firm Kroll this week identified foreign actors who are combining unemployment fraud with ransomware attacks. Nicole Sette, former FBI cybersecurity analyst and senior vice president in Kroll’s cyber risk practice, said this is the first instance of the two cybercrimes being used in conjunction.

“There’s overlap between transnational organized crime groups,” she said. “There is a possibility they’re working together or just multiple groups are capitalizing on this vulnerable unemployment system.”

Data continues to play a key role informing governors when to reopen their economies, as some states that have loosen their stay at home orders report spikes in COVID-19 infections. In Florida, dismissed geospatial information systems manager Rebekah Jones launched her own website that relies on state data but interprets it differently, offering a competing story to the official one being told by the state’s Department of Health.