Protect devices, information with cybersecurity

Technology gives us more convenience and fewer limitations. Unfortunately, that can apply to hackers and scammers too.

Victoria County commissioners on Monday approved a draft of a new information technology and cybersecurity policy for Victoria County.

County Judge Ben Zeller said Monday, the county’s written IT and cybersecurity policy is “largely nonexistent.” He said it is mentioned briefly in the county’s policies, but “the kind of modern policy that addresses today’s needs, threats and challenges is certainly lacking.”

The new policy was suggested as a part of Zeller’s “Innovation 2020 & Beyond,” which includes a number of proposals for the court to consider moving into the new decade.

Since “Innovation 2020” was first announced in late 2019, Zeller said, the need for heightened cybersecurity and IT protocols has increased. Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott addressed the heightened risk of cyberattacks because of the situation in Iran, Zeller said. Further, Zeller said there have been memos sent out from various state agencies imploring area governments to ensure they are operating with best practices to prevent cyberattacks.

Zeller said the new policy is one that will best address current challenges and meet the needs of the county. For example, he explained, the new policy addresses inserting a USB flash drive into a county-owned computer, which is a common tactic used to introduce a virus to a computer system. Zeller said it can occur quickly after someone picks up a USB flash drive found outside the building.

“You pick it up, what is this, stick it in your computer to find out, and boom, your whole system is infected,” he said.

The drafted policy, which can be found in the commissioners’ meeting packet, also addresses how county employees should handle downloading and installing software, setting unique passwords and more.

County Commissioner Kevin Janak said he recently received a fraudulent email that was designed to imitate a legitimate email from American Express. He said the email told him to click a link because his credit card had been used in a different state, and it “took everything he had to not press on the link.”

Janak said he later confirmed with American Express that the email was fraudulent, and warned the public Monday that people are getting “very creative” with how to camouflage scams.

“I think (the county’s new policy) is a great, great thing for the county to have,” he said.

Also Monday, commissioners met privately to discuss real property as well as personnel in the county’s administrative services department, commissioners’ court, the county judge’s office and employee clinic.

There was no action taken when the court returned to an open meeting, but the court will resume the meeting, again in a closed session, Tuesday morning.

Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, or on Twitter

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