BERRYVILLE — A cybersecurity expert will be hired to help Clarke County determine how to better protect its computer systems from hacking.
In March, neighboring Warren County was among the victims of what an official there described as a nationwide “intrusion” into data servers. The official wouldn’t go so far as to say the servers were hacked because it wasn’t yet determined whether the intruder obtained data or damaged the equipment.
The Clarke County Board of Supervisors recently voted to spend up to $50,000 in federal economic stimulus funds to pay an expert to inspect the county’s systems and implement recommendations.
No intrusions into the systems so far have been detected, said County Administrator Chris Boies.
“We’re trying to get ahead of things,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re doing all we can to protect the data we have.”
Despite no apparent intrusions into the county’s systems, officials know potential hackers already have tried to trick them into providing access to those systems.
For instance, “we get phishing emails almost every day,” Boies said.
Phishing involves tricking internet users into revealing personal or confidential information which can then be used illicitly. The information is revealed by opening deceptive email messages or websites.
In the past week, Boies said, the county has received emails that resembled ones from localities that have been hacked, and they even used the names of officials from those places. But the emails were determined to be fraudulent, he said.
Officials just started the process of recruiting a cybersecurity expert. Therefore, Boies didn’t know how soon an analysis of the county’s systems can be done.
Clarke County is receiving almost $2.84 million from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, established under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) signed into law earlier this year. Along with the $50,000 for the cybersecurity project, the supervisors have made the following appropriations from the money:
• $7,343 for a system that pumps fresh air into the county’s 911 emergency communications center, helping employees to breathe better in close quarters. The system has been installed and is working well, officials have said.
• $3,200 for the county Parks & Recreation Department to convert four water fountains into water bottle filling stations. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, filling bottles is “much safer” than people putting their mouths on faucets to take a drink, Boies said.
• $16,700 to buy extra cleaning supplies, as well as to pay for extra cleanings for recreation center and youth program facilities.
• $250 for hand sanitizing stations for the county Voter Registration Office.