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Jekyll Island Authority Continues Ransomware Mitigation Work

After falling victim to a ransomware attack Sept. 11, the Georgia authority charged with the stewardship of Jekyll Island has been working to repair the damage. Officials say visitor financial information was not impacted.

by Lauren Mcdonald, The Brunswick News / October 21, 2020
Shutterstock/Kim Lewis Photography

(TNS) — A $25,000 investment in new computer security, more than 340 hours of manpower from a third party support provider, and an abundance of sea turtle videos.

These were among the updates provided by Jones Hooks, executive director of the Jekyll Island Authority, to the JIA Board Tuesday during a discussion of the recent ransomware attack on the authority's network.

JIA staff became aware Sept. 11 of the network attack and have since been working to address the issue with support from Coastal Computers and state agencies.

"I will tell you that this has been an amazing process with many twists and turns that none of us ever imagined," Hooks said. "Even though we were operating above and beyond the state requirements, our computer systems were, we have now invested an additional $25,000 in security measures for our systems. Coastal Computing has spent over 340 hours in handling this attack for us."

Nine JIA employees have also devoted significant time combing through individual files on the authority's 19 servers to search for possible compromises of personal information.

"That is a very time consuming routine," Hook said. "It is also one that is absolutely required in situations like this, and so while we've had outside help assisting with a lot of this effort, we've had to have in-house persons working on it as well because in house we know the data, we know the protocols as far as what's kept in our files."

Charge card information, such as what's collected at the island gate, has remained protected by encryptions, Hooks said.

"We are getting very close to hopefully the end, hopefully the time whenever we will...be able to go forward and notify anyone that has the potential to have had personal information compromised," he said.

The Georgia Technology Authority and Georgia Bureau of Investigation continue to search the dark web for potentially stolen information from JIA's servers.

"We are delighted that we had as many videos of turtles as we happen to have because they seem to have put a lot of turtle video out in the dark web," Hooks said. "... That I suppose is the one lighter moment that we can share, but beyond that it's a very serious undertaking."

The board also heard an update on the work being done to revise Jekyll Island's conservation plan, which is nearly 10 years old.

The updated plan looks at how JIA should move forward with conservation efforts and includes new challenges to be addressed, some of which are related to climate change, sea level rise and invasive exotic plants.

The new plan features additional areas of consideration and some significant revisions.

The board did not take action on the updated plan, which is available for public comment on JIA's website until at least Nov. 5.

The board discussed the next steps for the Golf Master Plan, a final proposed draft of which was presented at its September meeting.

No budget or schedule plans have been made for the project, prompting Hooks to suggest the board schedule work sessions that will offer an opportunity to take a more thorough look at all the information.

©2020 The Brunswick News, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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