Hacking Attempt on Alabama County Brings Increased Security

Cleburne County, Ala., officials have beefed up their network security in light of multiple attempts made earlier this year to withdraw millions of dollars from county accounts.

by Laura Camper, McClatchy News Service / November 19, 2013

HEFLIN -- County Administrator Steve Swafford told a meeting of Cleburne County's commissioners Monday that attempts to hack county bank accounts last spring prompted increased network security.

Multiple attempts to transfer money from the accounts began on April 19, the commission learned, according to a written statement created by county employees. After normal payroll had already been run, a batch of checks totaling $135,458 and another batch totaling $2.8 million was sent to the bank for payment -- for withdrawal -- using an employee's login and password. The batches appeared to have originated from the employee's internet protocol address on the county's network, according to the statement. In addition there were attempts to send at least six wire transfers, the statement said.

Metro Bank contacted the county for confirmation and the fraudulent checks and wire transfers were stopped.

After the county's network was again declared safe, the employee's login, password and address were changed. Another attempt to hack the accounts was made on April 25 and then again on April 29, according to the statement.

Swafford said this is the first time the county's account has been hacked but it hasn't happened since the April attacks.

The county notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Alabama Department of Homeland Security which are now investigating, Swafford said. All of the county records of the incidents have been released to the department in the last two weeks, he added.

"They're making a case against one of the folks who owned the account that some of the money was being transferred to," Swafford said.

But to keep it from happening again, Save Your Data, which is the county's technology consultant, and the bank worked together to improve the county's network security, Swafford said.

"The majority of the work was done by our IT consultant and Metro Bank," Swafford said. "They were superb."

Save Your Data installed hardware-driven security, he said. Swafford declined to talk about what other security measures have been put in place.

"None of those (attempts) were successful and we've even put additional stopgap measures in place to ensure that that is even less likely to take place," he said.

(c) 2013 The Anniston Star (Anniston, Ala.)