CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) — Hackers are trying to infiltrate networks and steal information from county office buildings and city halls in our area. That growing threat now requires an equally growing and costly response.
"Where a lot of the threats for the municipalities come from is actually organized crime. It's overseas," Advanced Network Systems, Inc. President Kevin Leibl said.
Augusta County reported 60 million hits from hackers over some 150 days, including from places like North Korea and Vietnam.
"The real importance is that we don't want any attacks or anything that would enable our network to shut down," said Augusta Deputy County Administrator Jennifer Whetzel. "There are varying, different attempts for our network. It could be a security company scanning items, or it could actually be something more hardcore."
Charlottesville and Albemarle County say their systems are targeted thousands of time each day: Some are “phishing” scams, while others attempts are more dangerous.
"Albemarle County takes cyber security extremely seriously, and I think all local governments are aware of various attacks in different localities across the country where hackers try to breach data systems or take control of systems," Albemarle County Spokesperson Emily Kilroy said.
Albemarle and Augusta counties are now requiring yearly cyber security training for all employees, which provides a better line of defense.
"What to look for, how to know if an email is real or not to help them really be proactive in our collective stance to prevent cyber threats," Kilroy explained.
Meanwhile, local governments are spending thousands of dollars each year to prevent a cyber intrusion:
• Albemarle County - total of $231,477.39 over five years
• Augusta County – around $71,000 per year
• Charlottesville – total of roughly $450,000 over five years
• Fluvanna County - $34,500 per year
• Madison County - $4,744.20 per year
"That's been a growing budget number for us in the last few years, and it will continue to grow," Whetzel said.
Each of these localities understands they hold the keys to sensitive information about their residents, and no one wants that information getting into a hacker's hands. All of these organizations have a range of software packages and systems in place.
"All the services that you're use to from the government, if they're network is shutdown they cannot deliver those services," Leibl said.