City Bulking Up Cyber Security After Council Approves Funding

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(Courtesy of City of Watertown)

The internet can be a treacherous place where identities can be stolen, scams are perpetrated, and websites get hacked. Watertown will take steps to keep the City’s websites secure, and up and running by increasing cybersecurity.

On Sept. 12, the City Council approved funding to increase protection on municipal websites and networks. City Manager George Proakis told the City Council that he supports the efforts of Watertown’s Chief Information Officer Chris McClure. The Council unanimously approved the $261,568 for the Cybersecurity Capital Plan.

“I’ve been very supportive working with (McClure) to establish and provide robust 24 hour monitoring systems for addressing cybersecurity and recovery to make sure IT programs remain up and running and protected as they can be from the threats that are out there in our world these days,” Proakis said.

An NBC 10 Boston report from 2020 found that one-in-six communities in Massachusetts had been attacked by ransomware, which take the information off servers and demand money to get the data back. Earlier this year, the City of Lowell’s computer system was shut down by a cyber attack. which shut down computer networks, phones, and servers, according to the story by WBZ Channel 5.

While McClure said that cybersecurity is important, it is not a popular subject for people in IT.

“It’s like Fight Club, we don’t like to talk about it,” he said.

The plan calls for 24/7 monitoring, auditing of computer networks and systems, testing, and other best practices in IT, McClure said.

“It is a force multiplier for the Technology Department,” he said. “In a good cybersecurity program. The most important thing is prevention, but in the case that something slips through there is early detection and early mediation. This does a lot of those things IT auditors are telling us we need to do.”

McClure noted that the IT department is quite small, and said the program will provide third-party resources and expertise that the department does not have.

“From a continuity standpoint this is huge. IT is very complicated. Cybersecurity is very important. There are a lot of subject matters that we can’t all be experts at, so we are spending this in a smarter way,” McClure said. “It allows us to buy, instead of 5-6 people, it shares literally hundreds of people’s subject matter expertise, say on the topic of cybersecurity.” 

The plan includes off-site backup of data, email security, ransomware security and monitoring, and antivirus protection.

Should there be a problem, the plan includes funds for fixing and recovering from a cyberattack, or for when someone leaves the IT Department.

“It has staff-turnover succession planning, and disaster recovery even in a cybersecurity (breach) — the worst case scenario — or in a more likely normal disaster event, hardware failure, software failure, or other issues where you have to recover from a backup and other things like that,” McClure said.

The plan also includes funds to build the City’s new system in parallel to the current one so that it can be transitioned with minimal interruption.

Councilor Lisa Feltner said she was excited to see the City increasing emphasis on cybersecurity.

“I’ve had constituents ask about this for a while,” Feltner said. “I have seen you make so many improvements in IT. I want to thank you for the improvements in cybersecurity for Watertown.”

One thought on “City Bulking Up Cyber Security After Council Approves Funding

  1. As a past Security Officer, Security Consultant, Board Member of an InfraGard Chapter and involved in Security training, both computer and active fire response with the FBI.

    Watertown has made a very good start to protect its residents, schools and business against cyber crime. The hardest work is getting management to agree to spend money to solve issues most do not understand. Now that Watertown has set the tone and started working on real world problems. Including cybersecurity (breach) — the worst case scenario — or in a more likely normal disaster event, hardware failure, software failure, or other issues where you have to recover from a backup and other things are extremely important.

    Thank you for getting Watertown started toward working like a real business!

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