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County could potentially spend $80k annually on cyber security to prevent another attack
FB DCN Government County

Dawson County IT Director James Tolbert presented to the Board of Commissioners Aug. 23 his department’s recommendations for cyber security updates that could potentially cost in the area of $80,000 a year.

A sophisticated ransomware attack at the end of April crippled many of the county’s computer systems, and as a result multiple department heads presented requests to move to cloud-based systems during budget hearings this year. The board of commissioners subsequently asked Tolbert to come up with a recommendation for updates to the county’s systems to increase cyber security.

“There is no state contract for cyber security, so what we’ve done is a lot of work, went out and got some pricing on cyber security for the remainder of this year and also for the 2019 budget,” Tolbert said.

Numbers that Tolbert presented included upgrade backups and cloud recovery for $2,076.27 a month for 36 months.

“It's a lease to buy sort of program, at the end of 36 months you will own it. After that three years we will still owe a $5,000 license fee for the remainder of the two years or you have an option to buy it outright at $66,645,” Tolbert said.

Tolbert also presented prices for antivirus and threat monitoring from Carvir Security ($2,835.25 per month) and for system management updates ($2,300 per month).

“In our budget we asked for another IT person, if that IT person is approved then they can offset that $2,300 a month by doing it in house,” Tolbert said. “Total cost per month estimated would be $7,211 and it's going to be a yearly of $86,532 if we do not get the county employee, and if we do get the employee, for 2019 the total cost would be $58,935 for cloud backup and security on the front end.”

If implemented Oct. 1, the cost would be $14,734 for the remainder of year.

IT Specialist Will Shattuck explained how the system the department is considering would work to store data onsite, offsite and on offline backup. The system would keep three copies of the data, with two types of storage devices and with at least one copy of data kept off site.

“We currently pay for an offsite storage facility in Lumpkin County,” Shattuck said. “We started that earlier this year as matter of fact. This would allow us to continue to use that fiber connection between here and that location. Of course the final one is what we consider most important, keeping the data offline. What that means is I will actually have the county data in hand that can’t be touched by another computer, another network, it's not connected in any way to the internet.”

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said that the county had been the victim of another attempted attack since April, and that Carvir Security along with the county IT department was successful at blocking it.

“It is something we desperately need to do to protect our systems and protect our employees and keep everybody up and working,” Thurmond said.

The board is set to vote Sept. 6 on the security recommendations.


Board of Tax Assessors to finish commercial revaluations alone

The board of commissioners at the bequest of the Board of Tax Assessors voted Aug. 23 to terminate a contract with the company that conducted all of the residential property revaluations in 2017.

In a letter dated Aug. 17, Sam Gutherie, chairman of the Board of Tax Assessors, asked that the current contract with GMASS, or Georgia Mass Appraisal Solutions and Services, which the county entered into in May of 2017, be terminated for convenience. The agreement was for a two-phase appraisal of all residential and then all commercial parcels in the county. The residential was completed in time for tax assessment notices to go out June 4.

“We are appreciative for the work performed by the company during the residential project,” Gutherie wrote. “However, we feel at this time that it will be to our advantage to proceed with the commercial revaluation project in-house.”

“The residential is done, and that was the larger portion by a good bit of the contract, of course, because it's a considerably larger number of parcels,” County Attorney Lynn Frey said to the board of commissioners Aug.23. “Going forward with the commercial is something that the board feels they can do in house with the appraiser staff that they already have.”

The board of commissioners voted unanimously during a work session Aug. 23 to provide written notice to GMASS that the county would be terminating the contract.
The total amount of money the decision is estimated to save the county has not been tallied yet. The original agreement was $500,000 for the whole process.