City, County employees train to ward off cyber attacks

Posted 9/17/19

Five weeks after 22 small towns in Texas were hit with computer “ransomware” attacks, shutting down access to many public services and documents, Madisonville and Madison County employees sat Friday for a class on how to avoid such cyber attacks.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

City, County employees train to ward off cyber attacks

Posted

Five weeks after 22 small towns in Texas were hit with computer “ransomware” attacks, shutting down access to many public services and documents, Madisonville and Madison County employees sat Friday for a class on how to avoid such cyber attacks.

“In emergency management, we must plan, prepare for, and mitigate disasters if we can,” said Shelly Butts, the county’s emergency management coordinator. “Cyber Security is no exception.”

Friday’s session, arranged by the city and led by Marcus Pitre, owner of The City Technology Group, delivered an hour overview of the basics to ward off computer attacks.

“If we put into practice educating ourselves and using common sense – we will have a fair chance at protecting ourselves from all the hidden threats to steal information,” said Laura Lawrenz, the city’s director of marketing and tourism. “Personally, I will be more diligent in backing up my computer on a daily basis and purchasing a more aggressive anti-virus software program.”

On Aug. 16, a ransomware attack was launched against a number of Texas towns, most under 15,000 in population, though Lubbock County (305,000) was also in the mix. Borger and Keene announced that online systems for utility payments and vital records requests were knocked offline during the attack.

The city of Kaufmann posted Aug. 19 on Facebook that it still felt the impact of the attack. “The City of Kaufman Computer and Technology Services has been severely affected by an outside source. At this time, all of our computer and phone systems are down and our ability to access data, process payments, etc. is greatly limited."

Not all entities were caught unaware. According to a story on the website Ars Technica, Lubbock County Judge Curtis Parrish told a local radio station that the county's IT department "was right on top of it… they were able to get that virus isolated, contained and dealt with in a very quick manner so it did not affect any other computers or computer systems here in Lubbock County."

Friday’s training is designed to help Madisonville and Madison County be as prepared.

“(Pitre) described several ways the cyber criminals can pull you in,” said Don Grooms, city code compliance officer. “Fake antivirus, "scareware" and other rogue online security scams have been behind some of the most successful online frauds in recent times.”

Butts said she agreed with Pitre’s assessment that preventing cyber attacks is “70% education and 30% common sense but appreciated the new information she gleaned.

“Reminding people to be extra cautious on public wi-fi platforms is something many people don’t stop and think about,” she said. “Even hotel wi-fi with passwords is not an atmosphere secure enough for me to use to log into my financial apps or programs.

“Like Marcus also mentioned, I strongly encourage people to utilize the multiple encryption options on websites and apps that offer it. Many websites, especially finance-related, require a user to enter their username and password first. Then a text is sent to the cell phone that is already registered with their account. The user must then enter the code from their cell phone into the app or website to authenticate their username and password. I suggest using this multi-level encryption on all computers, even if it’s not a shared computer.”

Comments