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Heartland Community College to Invest $1M in Cybersecurity

Still recovering a few small systems after a ransomware attack eight months ago halted classes for a week, the Illinois college is planning extensive cybersecurity improvements in the coming year.

Heartland Community College.jpg
Heartland Community College, Normal, Ill.
Heartland Community College
(TNS) — Heartland Community College intends to spend $1 million on cybersecurity improvements in the next fiscal year, after going through a ransomware attack in October 2020.

But despite steps taken and security improvements continuing to be made, “It could happen again,” Scott Bross, Heartland’s chief information officer, told the board of trustees Tuesday night.

Bross pointed to recent cyber attacks that have affected the meat-processing industry and the Colonial Pipeline as well as warnings from the Biden administration that such threats are continuing and increasing.

“We’ve learned a lot. We’ve done a lot,” Bross said of Heartland’s experience. “It’s never going to be perfect.”

The college installed an Enhanced Detection and Response system to quickly identify attacks and protect the institution's systems. It also has added a full-time position within its information technology division specifically focused on cybersecurity.

It took Heartland about a week to get classes back online. By winter break, most critical operations were restored. But Bross said the college is still re-establishing and recovering smaller systems more than eight months after the attack.

Among steps taken by the college since the attack is implementation of a new backup system with remove storage at a cost of $190,000. The new backup system already had been in the works, but was implemented sooner than planned after the attack, according to a report given to the Heartland board of trustees.

The college also spent $60,000 on additional security enhancements.

The cost of recovering from the attack currently stands at an additional $250,000, but much of that is expected to be reimbursed by the college's insurance carrier.

In other action, the board approved a three-year extension of President Keith Cornille’s contract. His base salary will be $228,833 as of July 1 and increase by 1.5 percent in the second and third years of his contract. His current salary is $225,400.

The board also approved one-year contracts for Heartland’s four vice presidents with each receiving increases of $3,620.

Rick Pearce, provost and vice president of academic affairs will go from $156,566 to $160,186, a 2.31-percent increase.

Sarah Diel Hunt, vice president of enrollment and student services, will go from $139,733 and an equalization adjustment of $267 to $143,620, a 2.78-percent increase.

Kelli Tillery Hill, vice president of external relations, will go from $142,519 to $146,139, a 2.54-percent increase.

Letisha Trepac, vice president for finance and administration, will go from $140,00 to $143,620, a 2.55-percent increase.

The board also received an update on the tentative budget for fiscal year 2022, which Trepac said is “balanced at this time.” The board will act on the final budget at its Sept. 21 meeting.

©2021 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.