Warren County continues to update its technology months after a country-wide “infiltration” hampered government computer systems.
The infiltration, which occurred in March, prevented some of the county’s departments from accessing information needed to perform certain tasks or sending and receiving email. The infiltration did not compromise county data stored on servers, officials said.
But the incident, which also affected private and public systems in other states, spurred the Warren County to upgrade its technology. The Board of Supervisors created a new department to oversee information technology and allocated funding in the most recent budget. Last month, the county hired Todd Jones to serve as the department’s first director. Jones had previously headed up the same department for Front Royal.
On Tuesday, Jones updated supervisors on the county’s challenges with its computer systems, recent technology improvements and short- and long-term plans for upgrades over the next year. One challenge: The county’s Energov system in place for several years still posed problems for the inspections department. The Department of Finance was also still having problems monitoring billing by vendors following the March infiltration.
“Of course, there’s always a running concern about a security posture with the county,” Jones said. “We’re looking into that. And then, of course, you know, within the IT department you’ve gotta be planning for the future.”
Supervisor Delores R. Oates asked Jones where the county stands on recovering data, such as old emails, lost. Jones said the process involves recovering old emails from the server and transferring that date to a person’s email account. Jones said the recovery process is about 80% complete.
Oates then asked if the emails would be available if requested through the Freedom of Information Act.
“Yeah, but it would be complicated to pull it at this point,” Jones replied.
“That’s why I was wondering what implications it might have because that data is key for conversation, communication between us and constituents, between us and each other,” Oates said.
Chairwoman Cheryl L. Cullers, Vice Chairman Archie A. Fox and supervisor Walter J. Mabe attended the meeting. Supervisor Tony F. Carter did not attend the meeting.
The Technology Department has since updated a main computer system and trained employees on how to back up its data every night, Jones explained. The county has upgraded its phone system, Jones said. The department also completed work to connect Energov with the county’s geographic information system, which will help the building inspections department to perform its duties. The technology department has also reviewed security systems and accessibility. The county also is forming an information technology committee made up of members from each department.
“There’s a thing that happens with an IT department that I’m really cautious of where people get frustrated because problems don’t get resolved and then they don’t want to report the problems and we don’t know the problems are there and we can’t fix them,” Jones said. “So all of this is in an effort to make sure that that doesn’t happen, and when we bring staff on and we bring some IT support personnel on we’ll kinda make it very clear to them that we need to finish a job, we need to make sure we follow up with a trouble ticket, make sure we get what people need so that we don’t run into that negative feedback that I was describing.”
But the Information Technology Department does not have its own personnel yet. Jones said employees from the Warren County Public Schools Information technology department are working with him on the upgrades and improvements.
Planned tasks over the next months and the year are subject to change as the work moves fast, Jones said. The technology department is hiring and training new employees, he said. The department plans to establish written security policies and train staff on how to properly identify phishing and other cyber threats. The department also needs to establish a budget for the reaminder of the fiscal year, which ends June 30, as well as begin its review of the next spending plan.
Next steps include a review of the systems backup, server hardware and implement upgrades and establish a proposed fiscal 2023 budget. The department also plans to review the deployment of mobile data terminals for the Department of Fire and Rescue Services.
Other plans include reviews of the county’s website and its use of social media services; connecting more departments with fiber optic cable.