When hackers attack they don’t always aim for individuals or businesses. They also target cities and towns to see if they can find a breach in their systems. Major cities like Atlanta and Baltimore have recently been the targets of ransomware, and on August 22 towns in Texas were hit with a coordinated ransomware attack. Robert Newell, director of information technology, along with the rest of the city’s IT department, are constantly on alert to ensure that Ardmore does not become a victim.
“Cities right now are incredibly susceptible to ransomware, and the hackers have been successful,” Newell said. “And they’ve found that cities pay to get their data back.”
Newell said someone tries to hack into the City of Ardmore about once every 30 seconds, and the hackers themselves are typically from overseas, with Eastern Europe and the Middle East being the hot spots. All of these hacks have failed with the exception of a small infection around three years ago.
“It only affected a very small department, and in the end we were only down about two hours,” Newell said. He credits the city’s extensive policy of backing everything up for the speedy recovery. To help ensure a situation like this does not happen again, all departments receive regular testing and training.
Newell will periodically send all city employees an email that is similar to a dangerous spam message. These emails will come from a fake account, and be signed only “IT Department.” Newell said this is a major red flag because he would not send out an email without signing his name.
“Almost everyone knows not to click it, but some do,” Newell said. “Once they do they get a notice telling them that they goofed and are then asked to take some quick training. The training gets longer and longer, and if you’re a repeat offender then you’re going to come into my office to talk.”
Newell said in the event the city does get hacked, they will promptly let the public know and start working on the solution to get everything back up and running correctly.
“We monitor 24/7, and I have servers emailing me their status in the middle of the night,” Newell said. “If we get hacked, we’ll let you know so you can protect yourself. That’s our commitment to the city.”