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Michigan County Restores 80 Percent of Systems After Cyber Attack

The computer-aided dispatch system for Grand Traverse County's 911 service is also officially back online following a cyber attack that disabled the system and many other governmental services.

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(TNS) — The computer-aided dispatch system for Grand Traverse County's 911 service is officially back online following a cyberattack that disabled the system and many other governmental services.

"As of 2 p.m. yesterday, it was operational for all first responders," said County Administrator Nate Alger at Wednesday's county board meeting. "I know Cherry Festival is just three days away, so this is great timing."

The CAD software dispatches call data to mobile devices mounted in patrol cars, fire engines and ambulances. It also provides important online services for the county's corrections and records departments. As such, it serves a larger public safety role than just 911 data alone.

Since the June 12 cyber attack, first responders had been relying on radios and cellphones to communicate with the central dispatch center — and each other.

Emergency services were still available to the public during that time, though without the detailed information that usually flowed through the CAD system, such as mapping resources and the location of nearby patrol units.

Now that problem has been largely solved by migrating to a cloud-based solution. Instead of running the Tyler Technologies software on local servers, the software will reside on secure internet servers maintained and protected by the Texas-based company.

"We are still working through a few bugs, but we hope in the next few days to get to 90-95 percent operational effectiveness," said Jason Torrey, director of Grand Traverse 911, who was part of the county's incident response team.

"Kudos to our IT staff and Tyler Technologies for their dedication to make this happen so quickly," Torrey added. "In the world of technology, this is an amazing feat."

The migration to a cloud-based solution will cost about $231,000 in upfront, one-time fees, plus about $301,000 in annual fees going forward. That's an increase of approximately $167,000 from the current Tyler Technologies annual service contract.

The county is also eligible for a $98,000 prorated credit for unused portion of current Tyler Tech agreement.

Much of that extra cost will be borne by the 911 surcharge fee on all cellular devices, according to county Finance Director Dean Bott. A smaller portion will be allocated to the corrections and records department, he said.

Grand Traverse County has insurance coverage for cyber attacks, but it typically doesn't pay for upgrades of this sort, Alger said.

On Wednesday, commissioners voted unanimously to authorize the extra expenditures, which were incurred earlier in the crisis under an emergency purchase provision in the city's governance policy.

Board Vice Chair Brad Jewett was absent from Wednesday's meeting, as was Commissioner Darryl Nelson.


Overall, about 80 percent of the county's computer infrastructure is back online, officials said.

A few areas of the county's IT operations still need work before they are fully operational, said county IT Director Cliff DuPuy.

For example, the OnBase document management system that is heavily used by the city staff isn't fully restored, nor is the BS&A software used for human resources.

Other problem areas include the software application for permitting, and the county's GIS systems that power mapping services for both county staff and local residents.

Migrating the OnBase system to the cloud may take a bit longer, DuPuy explained, because the state's Office of Administration is currently in the process of moving court documents to the cloud-based services.

"We are going to be out three years or so, I've been told, so we'll have to continue (using) OnBase," he added. "I won't have cost estimates for that until the 2026 budget cycle."

At Wednesday's board meeting, Judge Charles Hamlyn of the 13th District Court thanked county officials for moving quickly to restore essential systems in the justice center, which were hard hit by the network outage.

"Obviously, the courts depend on the county for IT services," Hamlyn said. "Cliff and his folks got us back faster than I quite frankly thought was possible. We very much appreciate that."


Migrating important systems from in-house servers to the cloud (internet) is a fast-growing strategy for both governments and private industry.

The county already uses Microsoft Azure for some cloud-based hosting services, while the city uses Amazon Web Services for similar purposes.

Going forward, the county intends to migrate most or all of its software applications to cloud-based solutions, Alger said. Estimating the costs, timing and feasibility of that process will take several months at least.

Board Chairman Rob Hentschel, who manages an in-house network at his family business, stressed the extra security value of cloud-based hosting.

"I do think it's the wave the future, especially with these type of attacks," Hentschel said. "If we are hosting all of these services on our own network, if one of them is compromised, they're all compromised."

Commissioner Scott Sieffert, who represents District 8, said he was concerned that even cloud-based servers could be hacked by criminals.

"Every time we come up a new lock, someone has a new way to pick it," Sieffert said. "So having gone forward with this, the cloud is great but not 100 percent pick-proof. What happens if we can't access the cloud?"

To help prevent further malware attacks on the CAD system, the county is now using a "dedicated secure circuit" for communicating between the Tyler Tech systems and Grand Traverse 911.

In the unlikely event that the secure circuit fails, DuPuy said the county could switch to the "commercial" (regular) internet for that connection.

A complete failure of the internet would be "highly unlikely," he added, given the multitude of back-up systems, servers and nodes that support it.

PRAISE FOR RESPONSE Throughout Wednesday's meeting, commissioners praised the multi-departmental team that responded to the cyberattack, many of whom worked 18-hour days to find solutions to the network outage.

"I just want to take a moment and thank everybody," said Commissioner Penny Morris who represents District 9. "This highlights how efficient and effective we are at pivoting and responding to a situation."

Hentschel echoed the same sentiments.

"I can't imagine it being handled any better than it was handled," he said. "The work we've done over the last six years or so to upgrade our technology really came to fruition when the event happened."

When asked how he managed to keep going during 14 days of crisis response work, DuPuy said, "Coffee and Red Bull."

Waste plan

In other action Wednesday, the board approved a new intergovernmental agreement with Benzie and Leelanau counties for a regional materials management plan.

The goal of such plans is to divert discarded materials out of landfills, while improving the environmental sustainability of this fast-growing region.

Commissioner T.J. Andrews requested and received a special study session on the new Regional Materials Management Act to examine how it may impact local residents in areas such as recycling, composting and waste disposal.

The next meeting of the Grand Traverse County Commission is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, July 17, in the Governmental Center at 400 Boardman Ave. in downtown Traverse City.

© 2024 The Record-Eagle (Traverse City, Mich.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.