Friday, January 6, 2017

The Hackers Are Coming! Burlington Electric’s Crisis That Wasn’t

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 6:47 PM

Neale Lunderville - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Neale Lunderville
Burlington Electric Department communications director Mike Kanarick said he didn’t notice the first time his cellphone buzzed just after 8 p.m. on December 30. Or the second time. It was a Friday night after all, and Kanarick’s house was crowded with 25 guests celebrating Hanukkah with a healthy offering of potato latkes and Heady Topper.

It wasn’t until after 8:20 p.m. that Kanarick heard about a Washington Post report, posted 25 minutes earlier, that suggested that the municipal utility had been hacked by Russians. By then the news had already gone viral; Kanarick’s work phone was inundated with calls from unfamiliar numbers. He called back one he recognized: BED general manager Neale Lunderville’s.

Lunderville had gotten wind of the story around 8:15 p.m. He and his wife were at dinner at a friend’s house when Green Mountain Power spokesperson Kristin Carlson called to ask: “Has your electric grid been hacked?”

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Vermont Gubernatorial Candidates Debate Technology

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 8:39 PM

Gubernatorial candidates Phil Scott (left), Bill Lee and Sue Minter at a roundtable forum Monday with moderator Cathy Resmer. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Gubernatorial candidates Phil Scott (left), Bill Lee and Sue Minter at a roundtable forum Monday with moderator Cathy Resmer.
The government’s role in enhancing technology across the state proved a point of contention among the gubernatorial candidates during a debate Monday in Burlington.

The tech-based roundtable discussion, part of Innovation Week in the Queen City, exposed that and other key differences between Democrat Sue Minter and Republican Phil Scott just weeks before Election Day.

“The governor does need to actually drive this forward,” Minter said. “We cannot have kids unable to actually do their homework in the same speed and at the same conditions as others.”

Scott countered that he won’t promise to bring universal broadband across Vermont. Both current Gov. Peter Shumlin and former governor Jim Douglas proclaimed they’d make such a vision a reality — but never saw it through.

“I’m going to stop short of promising that,” Scott said, later calling for incentives to encourage private companies to expand broadband coverage.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Drone Debate in House Judiciary Balances Privacy, Public Safety

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2016 at 6:18 PM

Rep. Maxine Grad, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which voted out a privacy protection bill addressing the use of drones and license-plate readers. - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Rep. Maxine Grad, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which voted out a privacy protection bill addressing the use of drones and license-plate readers.
The House Judiciary Committee walked a tightrope Thursday in recommending its version of a bill to protect personal privacy.

The legislation sets guidelines for how and when the police may use drones, and it reauthorizes police use of cameras that capture photos of license plates and establishes the procedures that law enforcement agencies must follow to gain access to electronic communications.

“What is important is the balance between protecting individual privacy and enhancing public safety,” said Rep. Maxine Grad (D-Moretown), chair of the committee.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

State Won't Pursue Huge IT Projects; Will Take Smaller Bytes

Posted By on Tue, Feb 9, 2016 at 6:16 PM

Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson
The Shumlin administration has pulled the plug on two multimillion dollar information technology projects that would have upgraded and integrated obsolete systems in the Agency of Human Services.

The administration now intends to break the large projects into smaller components to increase the chances of successful implementation, Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson explained to the Senate Committee on Institutions Tuesday afternoon.

The state has spent several years planning the two big technology upgrades at the Agency of Human Services. One, with a price tag of more than $147 million, would have created an integrated eligibility system for dozens of social service programs. The other, required by federal health care regulators and with a cost estimated at $75 million, would have overhauled the Medicaid management information system. The state had selected vendors for these IT projects. Johnson said that last week the state halted its negotiations on the scope and payments of both projects.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Garrett Graff's 'Mental Home' Stance Sparks Social Media Snark

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2016 at 4:58 PM

In case you haven't heard, Montpelier native and former Politico Magazine editor Garrett Graff is thinking about running for lieutenant governor.

After spending more than 11 years in Washington, D.C., Graff moved to Burlington last fall and said he'd explore a run for the state's second-in-command. Just one catch: The Vermont Constitution states that candidates for the position must have lived in the state for four years before the election.

Graff made his case that he should be eligible for the position before a legislative committee Wednesday, stating that though he'd moved away, Vermont has always been his "mental home."

The denizens of Twitter seized on that phrase, asking the big questions: How do you get food delivered to #mymentalhome? What are the taxes like there? And, most importantly — it's Vermont, after all — what is #mymentalhome's carbon footprint?

The hashtag originated with Shay Totten (who, full disclosure, is a former Seven Days political columnist). But others jumped in on the action, too.

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Friday, January 22, 2016

CCTA Announces New App, Rebranding

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2016 at 11:06 AM

CCTA riders board buses on Cherry Street in Burlington. - OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini
  • CCTA riders board buses on Cherry Street in Burlington.
The Chittenden County Transportation Authority plans to roll out phone apps that let passengers purchase tickets and track buses in real time later this year, the agency said Friday. 

In addition, the agency plans to rebrand itself as Green Mountain Transit.

CCTA said its Automatic Vehicle Location system will feed information about the location of buses and any last-minute schedule changes to users' cell phones. The initiative will be largely paid for by funding from the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

"This highly sought after system has been a high priority for CCTA and its passengers for quite some time," CCTA General Manager Karen Walton said in a prepared statement.

On Tuesday, CCTA's Board of Commissioners decided to seek bids to implement the mobile ticketing system, which will allow riders to purchase tickets and board buses with their phones.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Senate Takes Step to Protect Privacy in Electronic Age

Posted By on Thu, Jan 14, 2016 at 3:15 PM

Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden)
The lead sponsor of a privacy protection bill said he hoped the legislation would stir public awareness and expand discussions about the changes technology is bringing to personal privacy. But senators spent little time debating the bill before voting to pass it unanimously this week.

The bill is a first step to bring privacy protections up to speed with evolving technology, Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P- Chittenden) told his colleagues.

Before passage, the Senate Judiciary Committee had stripped out the provision that generated the most controversy — a proposal to allow individuals to sue and collect penalties and legal expenses if the privacy of their medical records was breached. "We agreed that provision wasn't fine-tuned," Ashe said, but he also acknowledged heavy lobbying by physicians.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Former Police Chief Michael Schirling Picked to Lead BTV Ignite

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2015 at 1:17 PM

Michael Schirling - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Michael Schirling
Former Burlington police chief Michael Schirling's retirement lasted two months. Schirling has been named the first executive director of BTV Ignite, the alliance intended to leverage the city's high-speed internet infrastructure to boost the local economy.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said Schirling's appointment was part of an effort to reboot the two-year-old BTV Ignite initiative: Officials also announced that a board of directors has been appointed, and that the organization was filing for nonprofit status.

"This creates the footing for BTV Ignite to take off," Weinberger said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference outside the Burlington Electric headquarters. "Burlington has the building blocks to be a great tech city. The simple idea was if we got people from throughout the city together, we would accelerate its arrival."

Schirling, a Burlington native, started work last week. He is the first full-time employee of BTV Ignite, a group focused on bolstering educational opportunities in technology and helping Burlington's established tech companies and startups grow.

"What we're envisioning is everything from getting elementary students, all the way through high school, engaged more in [science, technology, engineering and math] and thinking about tech jobs, to making enhancements to the college and university curriculums so that, MyWebGrocer and Social Sentinel can find local talent," Schirling said in an interview.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Sleek Tech Expansion in South Burlington

Posted By on Thu, Aug 13, 2015 at 9:05 PM

Mingling at Logic Supply Thursday - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Mingling at Logic Supply Thursday
They sell computers rugged enough to operate in mine shafts. But there's nothing rough about the expanded headquarters of Logic Supply in South Burlington, which celebrated a sleek $4 million makeover Thursday that added 21,000 square feet to the building at 35 Thompson Street. 
Politicians, business leaders and friends of the company gathered to toast the business and tour the redesigned facility, where "blah" is definitely not part of the corporate ethic. Think purple rugs, turquoise chairs and orange walls. The company café and event space could pass for a hipster New York City restaurant dining room, and yes, that espresso machine in the corner is for employee use.

Big windows show the green fields next to the building off Hinesburg Road. With a general absence of clutter in the office spaces, the Logic building seems designed to invite clear thinking. 

"We're neat and tidy people," joked Lisa Groeneveld, chief operating officer, who founded the company with husband, Roland Groeneveld, and brought it to Vermont in 2004.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Lawmakers Agree to Ban Stoplight Texting

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2015 at 10:10 PM

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott confers Friday with John Bloomer, Senate secretary during Senate floor action. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Lt. Gov. Phil Scott confers Friday with John Bloomer, Senate secretary during Senate floor action.
A motor vehicle bill passed both the House and Senate easily this session, yet it was still lingering Friday as legislators were scrambling to adjourn for the year. The catch: whether drivers should be able to pick up their smartphones and text or check their email while stopped in traffic.

The Senate said no. The House, yes. Friday afternoon, the Senate won.

A House-Senate conference committee reached agreement on a change in the law that says as of July 1, drivers may not use hand-held electronic devices even while stopped in traffic, a loophole that slipped through last year’s hand-held cellphone ban.

“If we’re going to ban texting, why not do the whole thing?” said Sen. Dick Mazza (D-Grand Isle), chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. “To me, it’s more dangerous at intersections to check your phone, because people are crossing the street.”

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