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County officials seek to beef up protection from cyber attacks

Rumbles of
Thomasville to
present lone bid
Six weeks after first being approached about the subject, Grady County Administrator Carlos Tobar on Tuesday responded to concerns raised by Commissioner LaFaye Copeland regarding the protection of the county’s sensitive data and computer systems from cyber attacks.
“I thought we were in pretty good shape, but after talking with staff and thinking about worst case situations it made me lose a little sleep,” Tobar said this week.
Tobar brought in Peter Berry and Lee Gerald of Rumbles of Thomasville to outline the county’s current network system security and discuss opportunities to improve its disaster recovery component.
Berry told commissioners that the county has firewalls in place and antivirus software, but he noted the biggest weak point is county employees. “They may open an email that looks legitimate and boom the entire system is infected. Or, they may visit a good website and a video begins playing and locks up the entire system,” Berry said.
The key, the Rumbles officials said was backing up data before a disruption takes place.
With a managed network services plan the county is linked into a national operation center that Rumbles contracts with and the county’s network is constantly monitored and updated.
According to Berry, the county would even be alerted to possible hardware issues.
Berry and Gerald both said that those who seek to gain control of the county’s system could demand a ransom to regain access to county data, but even then it is not certain all of the data would be recovered.
Under the plan Rumbles is proposing the county’s network data would be backed up to the cloud on both the east and west coast and in the event of a “total wipe out” the data could be accessed from anywhere an authorized user had an internet connection.
Berry says that by adding the additional protective services the county would lower the amount Grady County pays Rumbles for billable hours of service. He said it would also extend the life of the county’s computers and services because of the constant optimization.
Another key, according to Berry, is the reduced employee frustration.
“I’m the one who brought this matter up. With the suggestions you just gave us I know it would not be 100 percent, but would we be 98 percent protected from a cyber attack?” Commissioner Copeland asked.
Berry indicated yes and said that most importantly “business continuity” would be maintained.
County Clerk Carrie Kines Croy shared with board members an incident approximately nine years ago when the county’s server crashed and she was forced to write over 150 payroll checks by hand with little time to spare in order to be able to put money in the hands of county employees that pay period.
“This type service is critical with payroll,” she said.
Berry warned that the cost would not be cheap. “It’s not inexpensive to do it the right way. The question you have to ask is what is the cost of not doing it?” he added.
Chairman Elwyn Childs asked how many other counties does Rumbles provide such services. Berry said that Thomas County Board of commissioners was currently  migrating to the new service, but mentioned no other governments of municipalities.
Commissioner T.D. David asked if a complete package would be available for consideration by the next commission meeting and Tobar indicated it would be.
Chairman Childs asked if other firms offered similar services and if the county would solicit proposals from firms other than Rumbles.
Tobar indicated that would mean bidding out the service again, which he said was done two years ago, and the board voted to go with Rumbles. “They are heavily involved in what we are doing now,” Tobar said.
“Let’s see what they deliver and go from there,” suggested Commissioner David.

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