Cities and counties all over Indiana are putting together budgets, but one topic that may get more attention than in past years is cyber security. Ransomware attacks hit the headlines earlier this year when hackers shut down an oil pipeline that runs up the east coast. That was followed with computer attacks that hit the nation’s largest meat supplier, JBS. But increasingly those attacks are impacting local governments. One of the biggest came in north Texas where a dozen communities lost the ability to use their computers to do police work, operate utilities and about anything else you do at town hall.
“This used to kind of be in the back of everyone’s mind,” said Washington City Clerk-Treasurer Beth McGookey. “Now it is moving to the front.”
For the city of Washington, keeping the computers safe is important.
“Cyber security is a big topic,” said Washington Mayor Dave Rhoads. “I would like to think we are secure, but you can never be 100% secure. We have an information technology director (Michael Folsom). I know he is always working on ways to make us more secure. We have firewalls and software that looks for malicious emails or other attacks. We also have a lot of off-site storage so that we can restore things in the event of an attack. I know we have done a lot to protect our network.”
For Washington, the protection is not just for the city, but also for the utilities. With electric, water, sewer and storm water utilities a hacker could, at the minimum, disrupt billing and at the worst impact operations.
“Mike is constantly watching our systems and working with department heads to try and keep everything secure,” said Rhoads.
While a larger community like Washington may be able to beef up computer operations to make them safer, some smaller communities may not have access to the same computer expertise.
“I don’t think we are any more exposed than the normal household, but I don’t know what we have in terms of security for our systems,” said Montgomery Town Board President Mike Healy. “Until a couple of years ago it really wasn’t anything to think about, now it is.”
Healy says at one time he was on a board…