• Charlene Sims, Journal staff

County needs to take steps to prevent ransomware attack

MOUND CITY – Information Technology (IT) Director Chris Martin updated the Linn County Commissioners on changes to the county’s technology and communication systems.

Martin told the commissioners that he is monitoring ransomware attacks on surrounding communities. He said that he was aware of two local communities have been attacked by ransomware relatively recently. Linn County is getting a lot more hits on its firewalls. He said this often happens during election time.

In order to protect the county, Martin says he is putting most of the county’s data into cold storage so that we air gap our backup. He said in the worst case scenario, the county could experience a 30 day lag of data and would not lose decades of data.

He said that he would like to see all employees take a 15- to 20-minute class on ransomware. He said that email was the biggest attack surface. When a person clicks on a link in an email to open it, it allows the ransomware to enter the system. He said that employees had to be diligent and question the emails as they come in.

The cost if the county were attacked by ransomware is rather significant, said Martin. He said he had talked with County Clerk David Lamb who said that the county did have some insurance for those types of things.

“Usually a county of our size is going to be north of a million (dollars) for the request of ransom,” said Martin. “So we definitely want to take every step we can to prevent that.”

Martin said that phase one of the digital radio transition is completed and the connection with all the city police departments is working great and the quality has been really good.

He said that his department is looking at phase two options right now which has to do with handheld coverage for the smaller areas like Parker and Blue Mound and the corners of the county. He said he will be coming back to the commission next year about phase two and some of the choices available there to make that more robust.

He told the commissioners he is also working with the fire department to discuss a digital plan.

Martin told the commissioners that 911 delays are still going on, and CenturyLink came out and did some engineering last week. He hopes to have the new circuits in the Justice Center by Thanksgiving. He said that Mid American Regional Council (MARC) has the new computers set up in dispatch.

In the discussion about tearing down the old jail, Martin said that once they get moved out, they would have to pick up the generator and move it, the transfer switch will have to be removed and the power cut from the building and there is quite a bit of IT stuff that is still there that will have to be removed.

Martin said it would probably be better to postpone the bid proposal for tearing down the old jail. He projects the best case scenario for moving would be in December and most likely the first of January.

County Counselor Gary Thompson said it would probably be better not to advertise yet for the demolition until commissioners get closer to knowing an exact date.

Martin said that he has daily calls with Brightspeed, which used to be CenturyLink. “We are at their mercy,” said Martin

In other business, the commissioners:

• Learned from Lamb that the audit firm of Diehl, Banwart, Bolton CPAs is no longer going to work on county audits. Lamb said he is looking at other companies.

• Approved a change order for almost $16,200 for the Justice Center project.

• Agreed that bills from Kaup Law Office be approved in the regular bills as they are turned in unless something seems incorrect. Kaup is working on the county’s zoning regulations. The bill was for $2,812.

• Discussed that the county phone numbers were not in the phone book. County Commissioner Rick James and Commission Chair Jim Johnson both said they had complaints about this. There are three telephone companies that send out phone books in Linn County, Peoples Telecommunications, CenturyLink, and CrawKan. The commissioners asked Martin and Lamb to work on getting the county into the phone books.

• Approved Commission Chair Jim Johnson to sign the transportation grant applications for the 2024 fiscal year.

• Received information for the buy-back options on some of the county’s heavy equipment from Public Works Director Shaun West. West will have more information next week.

• Met with representatives from Whitaker and Hamm quarries to discus quality of rock and prices for next year.

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