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Jacksonville, Ala., Boosts Cybersecurity Posture, Training

With a unanimous vote Monday, the city council of Jacksonville, Ala., approved cybersecurity recommendations, including one that focuses on employee training, from chief information officer Tim Smith.

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(TNS) — The Jacksonville City Council approved an update to the city's Internet security and reliability during its Monday night meeting.

The city's information technology officer, Tim Smith, offered the council options to protect the city from Internet-based threats including social engineering scams like phishing, viral attacks including malware spread through email attachments and general human error propagated by ignorance of security practices.

"Over the last couple of weeks, I've done some due diligence," Smith said during the council's pre-meeting work session. "I've spoken with department heads and have come up with two solutions to the problem."

One suggestion was to consolidate all city employees under a single email platform, and another was to provide training for employees about virtual threats.

For email, Smith suggested the use of Google Workspace or a similar service offered by Microsoft.

Some city employees have already been using Google software for work, including the fire department, Smith said. Others have used personal Google accounts, and still others have used the city's jacksonville-al.org web domain for email.

Smith described Google Workspace as more secure than the current arrangement, with encryption and two-factor authentication, a process that adds an extra layer of protection when logging into a private account. Employees would also have about 30 gigabytes of cloud storage, under the cheapest plan, which will cost the city $6 per month, per user.

He noted that the city's current arrangement costs only about $50 per month, but stressed that the investment would be valuable, for not only the platform's security and ease of use, but other options that would improve information management.

The city will need to pay for about 150 users, at a total of almost $11,000 per year.

The council unanimously approved the plan.

During its meeting the City Council also:

  • Approved a 15-month contract with Knowbe4, an Internet security awareness company that employs famed hacker Kevin Mitnick as its "chief hacking officer."

    The company will offer targeted internet security training for various city staff, Smith said.

  • Authorized a contract with Digital Technologies, LLC, for license and support for the company's Digital Detective Records Management System. According to Smith, the system is customizable to the city Police Department's needs, including GPS tracking for police vehicles, a new fingerprinting records system and tracking of periodic patrol checks for local businesses.

  • Discussed amending the city personnel manual to include the Juneteenth holiday on the city calendar, a decision that will not need to be approved by council vote.

    Councilman Andrew Green said the holiday had only been made official at the federal and state level shortly before its recognition on June 18, and the council had been unable to react in time for an official acknowledgment.

  • Continued discussion of a flood study performed by engineering firm S&ME last month, which proposed several solutions for flooding in the Cotton Creek neighborhood around Miranda Lane.

    Mayor Johnny Smith said he had spoken with the owner of about 20 acres in the area where a proposed detention pond might be placed, and that negotiations were in the early stages for the city to buy that property.

    Smith said the city requested a cost estimate from S&ME for the firm to design the detention pond, as well as a ditch that might also relieve flooding issues. The estimate could come as early as next week, the mayor said.

    Two Cotton Creek residents spoke during the public comment section of the meeting. One, who did not give his name before speaking, asked if the council had a timeline to resolve the problem, and asked which city employee was accountable for flooding issues.

    The council did not respond during the meeting, though most governing bodies will not respond to questions during public comment as a matter of policy.

©2021 The Anniston Star, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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