The city of St. Joseph has purchased new subscriptions for technology to limit internet access and to keep cyber criminals at bay.
The City Council approved the purchase of 600 Cisco Umbrella Insights Subscriptions, 600 Cisco Email Security subscriptions and one year of Cisco Umbrella Gold support from Computer Discount Warehouse – Government for $29,500.
The city’s network administrator, Paul Flury, said a recent common attack on municipalities has been ransomware, which holds data hostage until a cyber criminal is paid.
“What this is, is a link or attachment that has a malicious payload and has gotten through,” Flury said. “As a result, it has locked up data, sometimes data that is critical to the operation.”
He said the city’s new security system will detect this kind of attack early and offsite.
“Our mail goes through an off-premises place that essentially takes a look at the mail,” Flury said. “So, if there is an attachment in the email it will unpack that attachment. If there is a macro in there, some sort of actor, it will detonate that actor and look for malicious behavior.”
He said problems are dealt with before anyone at City Hall even receives the potentially dangerous email.
“What’s advantageous for us is all that happens before it even sees our mail server, before it sees our inbox, before we have any opportunity to detonate the attachment ourselves or click on that link, that mail is segregated,” Flury said.
According to the city’s IT department, cyber criminals have tried several times over the last few years to attack the city’s system, but they have not been successful and no data has been lost.
Flury said the new software will operate in a similar way as the old, but is expected to be better and to save money by bundling multiple Cisco services.
The system will allow the IT department to limit access and tailor internet accessibility depending on job type.
“That is a mechanism that allows us to granulate, literally, access to the internet,” Flury said. “So, if we’re wanting to keep certain parts of our workforce away from gambling sites, then that gives us the ability to filter out those sites from their access.”
He said internet access depends on job type. For example, the Police Department needs access to some of the “darker” parts of the internet to investigate and prevent crimes.
The annual maintenance cost of the Cisco services is expected to be $29,500.