Kansas County Fortifies Its Defenses After Failed Cyberattacks

Officials in Dickinson County, Kan., are banking on new antivirus software and staff training to better defend against future online threats.

by Kathy Hageman, Abilene Reflector-Chronicle / August 31, 2018

(TNS) — A couple recent unsuccessful cyberattacks on Dickinson County, Kan.’s computer system has spurred an investment in new antivirus software.

“We’ve had a couple attempted attacks come through our firewall and into the software. Luckily, staff were able to deal with those,” County Administrator Brad Homman told commissioners on Aug. 23.

When staff researched what had happened, they discovered that the two antivirus programs the county was using did not stop the attack. In response, staff found a replacement program that should catch any future attempts.

“It (new program) would have caught those and should give us a lot more protection; however, when you increase that ability it comes at a cost,” Homman said.

The new software will cost approximately $5,000, compared to the $2,500 the county was spending on the previous program.

“But that extra $2,500 will be a small price to pay for the alternative of ending up like Barton or Butler County and having one of those come through our firewall and getting ransomware where we can’t function for who knows how long,” Homman said. “We’re doing everything we can to maintain the highest degree of security we can on our computer network.

Harvey County’s computer network was attacked in February, causing the courthouse to be closed one day and some offices unable to offer services for several days.

Dickinson County also is a member of a consortium through Homeland Security in Washington, D.C., that monitors the most recent threats throughout the nation.

“Which doesn’t preclude anything from happening,” Homman noted. “Employee education is also a very important component of that security function.”

Employees are advised to not open attachments or go to links that “don’t look right” and report it to county staff.

©2018 the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle (Abilene, Kan.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.