County officials want to make sure that people know the cyber attack that the county suffered last week wasn’t due to a mistake by a county employee. An update on the data breach was given Tuesday at the meeting of the Grayson County commissioners.
“I want to make it very clear to everyone in the audience and the press (that) this was not someone opening an email which we have been trained not to do. This was not someone going online and visiting a social media site — that kind of stuff. This was a cyber attack,” Grayson County Judge Bill Magers said during the meeting.
And, he said it is not the first one the county has suffered, and it very likely will not be the last.
“This is not the end folks. We learned a lot of lessons on this thing. We are going to move forward and get better,” he said adding that dealing with such attacks is “the new reality,” and that is likely to cost the county some money at some point to continue to stay ahead of the cyber community.
A number of county staff and elected officials were praised for their work in getting the county back on track after the attack including the county auditor, the county treasurer, the human resource director and the staff of the Office of Emergency Management.
But the biggest slice of that pie was saved for County Information and Technology Director Ken Miller and his team. Miller said the more the county opens up its records and services for people to access via the internet, the more vulnerable it is to these types of attacks. That doesn’t mean the county plans to stop being open, he said. It just means that they have to continue to stay on top of the various ways the bad guys try to get in.
“And these bad guys are very talented,” he said of the ones that hit the county with the “Snatch” virus last week.
The ransomware was stopped by the threat detection and response interface set up by the county. It allowed a few computers to be sacrificed but the county didn’t lose any information, and no information was jeopardized.
“We lost no money, and there was never a discussion concerning ransom,” he said.
After praising the commissioners court for giving him the things he needs to be able to provide such a response, Miller added, “I’ve got a team that rocks.” He also said that team shows up to work when it is needed and works without complaint until the job is done not matter how long the hours get.
The experts who came in to analyze the damage found that the tools that were in place before the attack did exactly what they were supposed to do in that situation and “that the expertise and cooperation of the IT team was a luxury that few agencies enjoy,” Miller said.
There are a lot of people (counties) out there cutting corners and half staffing IT departments instead of making investments in those departments the way Grayson County has in the past. And that commitment paid off during this event, he said.
While the threat is minimized for now, Miller said the work to get everything back to the way it was before it happened continues.