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Ransomware Update: Henrico County Embraces Cybersecurity

Warren Bowman, Henrico IT Security Officer
Warren Bowman, Henrico IT Security Officer (Photo: Charles Fishburne)

When the Department of Homeland Security warned cities and towns across the country of a ransomware outbreak yesterday, Henrico County was ready.  As Charles Fishburne reports, they are mindful of the attacks that can shut down systems like water, power and emergency communications, and demand a ransom to restore it.

Henrico’s Data Center is so physically secure, even the director needs a second person with a key to get in.

Bowman: This is where all the servers are located.  And the switching.

But it is not the machinery.  It’s mostly the humans.

Bowman: That’s probably the greatest vulnerability today is email.

Warren Bowman is Security officer, watching over 5,000 computers and human error.

Fishburne:  So, five thousand computers out there and every single operator needs to have some idea what not to do.

Bowman:  Exactly. Absolutely.

Fishburne:  What would you tell them not to do?

Bowman:  Well, clicking links, is probably the first thing to do through email, just randomly getting email.  Just being aware.  Checking where the email came from, validating that if you are unaware if you didn’t expect it, validate it through some other means of communications.  Pick up the phone and call someone, make sure that they meant to send you this.  You know that is the biggest threat.  It’s spoofing something.  Thinking you got an email from the manager, the county manager, and it’s actually someone spoofing his address, then, not paying attention they could fall for malware, cryptomalware.

Fishburne:  Ransomware?

Bowman Ransomware.

Fishburne:  That’s how it can get in?

Bowman:  Right.

Fishburne I am interested about this spoofing.  If it’s good, how are they going to know it’s not their manager.

Bowman:  That’s the challenge.  There is always something that gives it away.  It’s learning the little hints.  Lots of time there are misspellings in the email itself.  They might use the manager’s name, but the email address that it actually comes from is different.  So if it’s not a Henrico.us address.  They might misspell Henrico.

More than 40 localities have been victims of cyberattacks this year including Baltimore, Atlanta, and smaller cities, like Lake City, Florida, that paid 460 thousand dollars in bitcoins to get their system back.  Henrico has about 100 employees in IT.

Travis Sparrow:   We do all we can.

Travis Sparrow is Henrico’s IT Director

Sparrow:   In like I said, a multi-layered approach to security from the edge all the way around to protecting the doorways into the room to ensure that the county citizens and the county government’s data is as protected as possible.

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