Screenshot from Tuesday’s work session. Alderman Sylvia Overby (left), Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyok (middle) and Alderman David Rhys (right).
The East Hampton Town Board announced Tuesday it was rushing to upgrade its computer systems, following a cyberattack that ripped through Suffolk County in September.
Heath Liebman, network and systems administrator for the town’s Information Technology Department, briefed the board on a complex plan to strengthen security. His department said it would deploy a “managed detection, managed risk, and managed security” system and also implement a “hybrid” backup of the town’s data both onsite and in the cloud.
This “strengthens the disaster recovery plan,” says Liebmann. At the same time, it quickly restores lost data, minimizes computer downtime, and provides round-the-clock protection from attacks aimed at hackers. “We will have complete onsite and offsite backups,” he promised.
The upgrade will also reduce the operational burden on IT staff, instead allowing it to “leverage the expertise and resources of solution providers who have experience and savvy in protecting government sector resources,” he said. rice field. Even better, he told the board that the town’s cybersecurity insurance premiums would drop.
Liebman emphasized that the town is not truly protected from cyberattacks until the data is moved offsite. “Storing backup data on servers in physical locations makes them vulnerable to fire, floods, or similar disasters,” he said in a document filed with the presentation.
He warned that a successful hack could have “devastating consequences.” Lost data means lost revenue, lost productivity, not to mention a loss of public trust. By storing data in the cloud, “when a cyberattack strikes or a disaster strikes, we can quickly restore the data and keep the town running.”
“Data protection is not a one-time event,” said Liebmann in the accompanying memo. “It’s an ongoing system of interconnected processes. A cloud solution ensures these processes run smoothly, minimizing the risk and cost of downtime.”
Regarding internal staffing, he argued that “IT staff can be a major source of competitive advantage,” but said that advantage would be blunt when people were burdened with creating manual backups. . “Traditional data methods
Backups are time consuming and cumbersome,” he wrote. In contrast, cloud-based solutions “shift the burden to the provider.” Most such services are available on a subscription basis and offer “24/7 support and regular reporting.”
Using the cloud backup provider’s services also gives them access to the latest technology and infrastructure, Liebman said. It also allows providers to “handle regulatory requirements governing data to ensure compliance and privacy.”
“A smoothly running cloud solution is incredibly efficient,” concludes Liebmann. “These solutions offer advantages to our cybersecurity posture at this time.”
Town supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, in a meeting with his board colleagues, emphasized the urgent need to protect the town’s data in light of the cyberattacks on the county’s computers. That invasion “dripped down on us,” he said, adding, “It is imperative that we fund these efforts now, rather than waiting for our normal capital plans to be completed.” For example, when the county system went down, payments to local nonprofits that depended on county funds were delayed.
Liebman says East Hampton residents can, for example, file paperwork, pay fees and submit forms “without having to go to city hall.”
His staff considered five proposals and settled on a company called OpenGov. He explained that OpenGov’s product is “extremely user-friendly” given the “simplicity of the interface.” He said several community members were brought in for a trial run and were “very impressed”.
The town board then decided to contract with OpenGov, and also decided to spend $865,000 on computer software and hardware for cybersecurity upgrades, financed through bond approvals. Did.
The town’s 2022 capital plan, passed in March, allocated $515,000 for the online system of web portals and set aside other funding for the new user-friendly portal Liebman mentioned. The capital plan did not include funding for enhanced cybersecurity, but that was before the county computer attack that put municipalities across the region on high alert.