As the moderator of the recent webinar on attainable municipal Zero Trust, I was privileged to lead a discussion with Jake Jakop from the Town of Mono, ON and Rob Blain from Northern Rockies, BC. Their shared experiences implementing Agilicus AnyX provide valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities faced by municipalities in safeguarding their digital infrastructure.
Learn more about the speakers and their municipalities on the event page.
I recommend watching the video to learn for yourself, but a few things I learned stood out to me.
Urgent Call for Enhanced Cybersecurity met by Attainable Municipal Zero Trust
The words of Jake and Rob resonate with a stark truth: no municipality is immune to cyber threats.
“Everyone is targeted, from the smallest town to the largest city, If they look like a municipality or a government entity, they are going to be phished, they are going to have malicious software sent to them. It’s just a matter of time.”
For Rob, it’s clear that this spreads from “the most junior casual employee that might only do 2 hours a month, but they have the same opportunity of causing catastrophic results as the person with administrative privileges”. He highlights a very critical point: cybersecurity is a non-negotiable element of modern municipal operations, “especially when you’re dealing with critical infrastructure. We run water treatment plants, sewage plants. The impact of a problem there …we’ve seen towns that still have a bad name because of something that happened a long time ago.”
Across the board, municipalities are playing catch-up when it comes to cybersecurity. The goal of this webinar was to explore how through strategic, informed, and valuable investments, municipalities of all sizes can implement modern cybersecurity strategies and that Agilicus is one of the best ways to achieve Attainable Municipal Zero Trust.
Rob put it best as he emphasized the economic considerations of investing in cybersecurity:
“We are 10% of the province of British Columbia’s land mass — that’s just a bit bigger than Austria the country, but we have a population of less than 5,000”
Introducing security initiatives are known to have “a great impact on our taxpayers and these are the same taxpayers that [Rob] will see at the grocery store, or that serve [him] at the restaurant”.
Transforming Cybersecurity Post-Pandemic
It’s undeniable that the pandemic has been a catalyst for change. Remote work models forced municipalities to reconsider and revamp their cybersecurity strategies. Jake’s initiative towards multi-factor authentication and privileged access management highlights this shift. The transition from unreliable VPNs to more robust solutions became imperative, needing an Attainable Municipal Zero Trust.
Jake: “We had to start factoring in everybody else who had privileged access which included our tax clerks and people who had access to ownership information – okay now what are we going to do? That’s when things started to shift towards, okay, we’ve got to do something better than the VPN. It was very slow and we would get complaints all the time about how slow it was so we have to do something differently because we’re like the VPN isn’t working, we have to change something”
For Rob, it was about insurance:
“Can we get it [insurance]? How much is it going to cost? How many restrictions are there going to be on it? What do we need technically to have? We need Multi-Factor Authentication. Okay, how are we going to get MFA? Who’s going to manage our identities? The meter on the taxi just kept running up and up and up and then Agilicus was presenting and as we dug out all the details we realized, okay, so it’s not just Multi-Factor Authentication, it’s not just VPN, it was all these other things that were bundled with it – and then we looked at the economies of it and Agilicus was about the same cost as one of the pieces, but it did all of it. Then it became whoa, okay, this is something that we can’t afford not to do!”
While Jake and Rob implemented Agilicus at different times, the common theme was clear: each organisation transitioned from traditional, inefficient cybersecurity methods to the comprehensive, agile, and user-friendly approach offered by Agilicus, making it Attainable Municipal Zero Trust.
Beyond Traditional Cybersecurity
Prior to Agilicus, municipalities like Mono and Northern Rockies grappled with fragmented and inefficient cybersecurity measures. The integration of Agilicus revolutionized this landscape, replacing multiple tools with a singular, cohesive solution. As Jake aptly puts it,
“It’s like choosing between an Allen Key and a Swiss Army knife – Agilicus is the obvious choice.”
Access and Vendor Management
One of the standout features of Agilicus is its transformative impact on remote access and vendor management. Jake shared an instance of granting remote access within 15 minutes – a testament to Agilicus’ simplicity and efficiency. This Attainable Municipal Zero Trust extends to all vendor management, making it more secure and efficient for municipalities to add, manage, and automatically offboard vendors who have a legitimate need to access their network and systems.
Rapid and Seamless Implementation
Rob’s experience with Agilicus’ implementation speaks volumes:
“It was a matter of hours, not days or weeks, and the implementation was 15 minutes max”.
This rapid deployment means that whether you’re a municipality that is under a tight insurance renewal deadline, or you’re simply under-resourced – this is not a multi-week problem To be Attainable Municipal Zero Trust you have to be time-affordable as well as dollar affordable. You can have the system operational in under an hour and move on to your next task without hassle. As Rob explains: “There’s not a whole lot of learning, the uptake of it is very quick, and it enables me to do these things that I need for my clients very quickly – and everyone’s happy. It’s really been the tool that I wish I had in my toolbox from the start.”
Seamless Integration with Industrial Systems (SCADA, HMIs, etc.)
Agilicus excels in integrating with critical infrastructures like SCADA systems, as Jake illustrates. “Users access only what they need, ensuring security and efficiency.”. Agilicus facilitates seamless access to SCADA systems and enables efficient remote HMI access:
“Based on the credentials… users can access an HMI that is on one of our water sites from their iPad from a web browser and not be able to access anything beyond that since they don’t actually have network access…to me that is amazing”
Similarly, Rob’s experience in Northern Rockies reveals how Agilicus facilitated mobile access for water operators, enhancing flexibility and responsiveness:
“One of the things we did is we implemented Agilicus for our water operators and organically they started using it with their phones. We used to have a dedicated laptop that they had to shift change and handoff and things like that. They came in and corrected us and said, ‘we just do it on our phone’ and it’s like, oh why didn’t we see that use case? It was one that the users just found. It doesn’t need software so now they all use their phones and it’s great because wherever they are whenever they need – even if they’re off shift – they can know what’s going on. It’s really getting a lot of positive feedback”
Measuring Impact and ROI
The return on investment (ROI) from adopting Agilicus was almost immediate, as Rob explains:
“The ROI was almost instantaneous for us. We needed an identity provider, first and foremost. And the cost of that identity provider versus the cost of your full suite was within a dollar. That really meant that everything else that you offered was a dollar. I can’t find a VPN for a dollar. I can’t find remote access securely for a dollar. So, really, we needed that authentication of the user. We paid for that, and every other feature was a freebie. It was plain, easy math. Here’s this cost, and here are the things we won’t have to buy. And it became instantaneous. Yeah, Agilicus was the right thing to do. And I appreciate how Agilicus was willing to work with us and understand our situation before saying, here’s your price tag. They looked, and it was really scaled to what we needed and what we were using. Not a one-size-fits-all. There was a lot of thought that went into it and a lot of care went into it. So I really appreciate that. That made the whole process that much easier.”
Leveraging Agilicus for Comprehensive Cybersecurity
Agilicus has proven to be a comprehensive, Attainable Municipal Zero Trust solution for municipalities, addressing a wide range of cybersecurity needs efficiently. For Jake, the platform’s capability to provide strong identity and authentication, multifactor authentication, and least privilege access, all within a single suite, has been a game-changer:
“We never anticipated being able to meet the multifactor authentication and Privileged Access Management requirements in a single solution. However, Agilicus made this possible at an economical cost”
Agilicus Support Levels
Of course, all of this is backed up by the Agilicus support team and excellent support levels, as highlighted by Rob:
“Whenever we’ve had questions, even at 5:00 PM our time, we’ve received immediate and effective responses. Often, we’re directly in touch with senior members or even the software developers, which is incredibly valuable. This level of support, where you’re directly connected with someone who can resolve your issues promptly, is extraordinary and a true lifesaver for us.”
The experiences of Jake Jakop from the Town of Mono and Rob Blain from Northern Rockies with Agilicus AnyX paint a clear picture: Agilicus stands out as an essential tool for modern municipalities, offering security, scalability, user-friendliness, and cost-effectiveness. More than just meeting current challenges, Agilicus is defining a new standard in Attainable Municipal Zero Trust cybersecurity, propelling municipalities into a more secure digital future.