Supes spend to save county cyber assets, election security

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – ​New software will allow Humboldt County to pinpoint the vulnerabilities of its cyber systems – including the election office’s system – and guard against hacking and malware.

​At its September 17 meeting, the county’s Board of Supervisors took action to guard against cyber system disruptions.

​The board approved a $25,000 cybersecurity software purchase that will be covered through a Help America Vote Act grant.

​Tom Lukins, the county’s IT security analyst, told supervisors that the software will give the county the ability to continually monitor cyber systems for weaknesses that would enable malicious interference.

​The county now evaluates individual servers “to determine if they’re misconfigured or if there is something out of date,” Lukins continued, adding, “What we don’t have is the ability to take a look at these collectively and get the right reports.”  

​The new software will specifically identify threats. “We want to know what’s out there in the wild,” said Lukin.

​Board Chair Rex Bohn pulled the item from the meeting’s consent agenda, saying that he’s gotten calls from people who are concerned about Russian interference, voter fraud and hacking.

Highlighting the stakes involved in protecting cyber systems, Bohn referred to an expensive malware disruption that affected a southern California county.

“Imperial County got shut down for nine days – no payments, no bills, no anything,” he said. “They got a $2.5 million ransom (demand) in Bitcoin, they refused to pay it and paid $1.5 million in software consulting and people to come in to retrieve their information.”

Calling ransomware “a very, very real threat,” Bohn said that “20 counties have been hit” and so have “eight or nine businesses, locally.”

​Supervisor Estelle Fennell noted that the county was the target of an email-based hacking attempt during the 2016 election. Kelly Sanders, the county’s registrar of voters, said the county interacts with the state on cybersecurity threats and her staff has “gone through some pretty extensive training on what to look for.”

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Also at the meeting, the county’s Sacramento-based legislative analysts, Karen Lange and Paul Yoder, reported on the year’s statehouse actions and those expected in the near future.

Lange told supervisors that the state budget includes about $500 million in new funding for homelessness reduction services. It will be split up between cities, counties and “continuum of care” service providers. Lange said counties will get $175 million, with the allocations based on each county’s Point in Time Count of homeless residents.

​“This is going to be an issue you’ll be hearing a lot about in the coming months,” she continued.

Briefing supervisors on upcoming legislation, Yoder said the state will advance a $15 billion “mega-bond” for K through 12 and higher education school funding. He described it as “the biggest single bond ever in the state’s history.”

It will be on the ballot of the state’s March primary.

Yoder also reported that the state’s budget scenario continues to be positive, with $20 billion in reserves and revenues “continuing to come in over projections month after month after month.”

He said considering that, “Maybe there’s a little bit less for counties to worry about” when Governor Gavin Newsom presents his budget proposal on January 10.

 

 

 







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