Is Toledo prepared for cyber attacks?

April 18, 2018

The city of Atlanta fell victim to a ransomware attack last month after hackers unleashed a program known as SamSam, compromising the area’s technological infrastructure and demanding $51,000 in bitcoin. 


And according to Charles Bethea, a New Yorker staff writer, “The hack has, among its many consequences…made courts unable to validate warrants; created parking-system problems and, perhaps most consequentially, initiated the loss—maybe permanent—of digital city files.”


The vulnerability of Atlanta’s cybersecurity prompted local Toledo city officials and institutions to reevaluate their own technological protection efforts. 


Atlanta’s attack “really amazed me,” said David Scherting, Toledo’s director of Information Communication Technology, before explaining a chart detailing the city’s IT Security.


In order to prevent something like this, “we do several things,” he added, referencing the chart’s branches, ranging from preventative measures to data backups.


But, preparedness doesn’t always coincide with prevention. 


Sherting said major companies have been hit and, “they spend millions on trying to prevent cyberattacks.”


Acknowledging the office’s budget of $250,000, Sherting added they’re “prepared and ready to find [security threats],” but, can’t guarantee there won’t be a cyberattack. 


“You never know what the next thing is going to be.” 


With news of another city’s technology breach, came a subsequent aura of self-protection. 


Since the attack in Atlanta, there’s been a “heightened sense of security” in Toledo’s IT office. And eventually, Sherting said, there will be a full time, around-the-clock, cyber security monitor. 


While the attack in Atlanta was aimed at an entire city, it’s not uncommon for hackers to target specific institutions. 


“Organizations including hospitals [and] schools…have been popular targets,” wrote Weiqing Sun, UT’s associate professor of Computer Science and Engineering. 


And like Sherting, who acknowledged every system’s vulnerability, Sun added no organization is completely immune from a cyberattack, and, “therefore, UT is also at risk.”


But, the IT department is “working around the clock to ensure the security of the campus network and university computing infrastructure.”


To “prevent and thwart the potential ransomware attack,” the IT department uses regular security patching and updating, proactive vulnerability scanning, effective network security defenses and penetration testing.


UT uses frequent backup service[s] to ensure that critical data can be readily recovered in case of a ransomware attack.


Because of Atlanta’s “slow recovery,” Sun called the effectiveness of Atlanta’s backup measures into question. 


“The situation would have been much better if the organization had taken sufficient efforts in securing and backing up the systems on a regular basis,” wrote Sun.

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