Camden County, Mo.'s Government Data Is at Risk

The presiding commissioner recently learned that the county has not been backing up sensitive network data and files to a secure off-site location.

by Cody Mroczka, Lake Sun Leader, Camdenton, Mo. / June 27, 2017

(TNS) -- As the Camden County Commission considers a contract proposal from Huber & Associates to fully manage its Information Technology (IT) network and administration, both sides are in agreement that one ongoing issue needs to be addressed immediately.

Presiding Commissioner Greg Hasty learned that the county has not been backing up sensitive network data and files to a secure off-site location when he met with two Huber associates and newly-appointed Auditor Jimmy Laughlin on Monday morning. Associate commissioners Bev Thomas and Don Williams were not present.

"Until we get this contract in place we are not backing up off-site from this building," Huber's Clayton Shepard said. "Right now everything is being backed up in two places, in case something happened, but under the contract, that all changes and we would back up to our office."

Shepard explained that one of the county's most important midrange servers - a high-powered, multi-purpose operating system designed for business applications, known as the AS/400, and used by the collector's office for property tax bills - is currently being backed up on physical tapes that are stored in a fireproof safe in the basement of the administration building, while the county's other servers and data files are backed up on the actual hardware.

"Honestly, I didn't know we were doing that and I believe we need to make a step on that right away," Hasty said. "That needs to be on an agenda for a meeting, immediately, before the end of the week."

The Huber representatives said they could add the backup work to the county's current billing statement, which is contracted on an hourly basis for the work needed.

Huber officially proposed a full-time, all-inclusive contract last week, but the commission wanted to seek a legal opinion from County Attorney Charles McElyea regarding the potential need to request for qualifications and undergo a bidding process.

It was unclear whether or not guidelines to obtain qualifications and bids had to be applied to a professional service such as IT administration before signing a contract.

The Huber representatives suggested still using tapes, but encrypting them first, and then moving them to a secure location, either at a county-owned property or in a lock box at a local bank. The county currently does not have an encryption drive for the tapes.

"Can we do that immediately? That, really we should do," Laughlin commented. "My only concern is if something happens, you're really hanging out there. It's way risky."

Laughlin said that the problem with storing the tapes in a fire-proof safe is that if a fire occurred, the water from the sprinkler system would damage the tapes if the safe isn't also waterproof.

Another issue Laughlin mentioned was backing up data at another county property that could be affected by a tornado or other major natural disaster, and suggested using a bank in Osage Beach if the county decides to go that route.

The Huber representatives said that they would set up a back-up cloud at their Jefferson City office to locally route the data safely and store in a place that's easily accessible by technicians, should systems ever go down again like they did in September 2016. An alleged security breach and subsequent confiscation of servers by the FBI caused a shutdown in network systems, email and phones.

"That's something we can do on the fly now. We can bill that into the statement of work to get the AS/400 off-site as well," Shepard said. "The big need coming up is getting somebody on site as things are starting to get better around here. People are wanting more and more. As we grow users are needing more help."

Hasty recommended Huber send the commission an email with the proposed backup work to begin this week and said he would place the item on an upcoming agenda for a full vote with his fellow commissioners present.

According to an agenda sheet received Monday after the meeting, the commission will discuss the off-site backup as well as "computer services - request for qualifications" on Thursday, June 29.

"We had a nuclear explosion that was getting ready to happen here, it was going to happen," Hasty said. "We were in a horrific condition. Unbelievable. This county government can never ever be in a position that we were put in last fall. That could never occur again."

©2017 Lake Sun Leader, Camdenton, Mo. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.