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Saturday, October 25, 2014
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County keeping the e-mail hackers at bay

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - Updated: 3:45 PM

By NICOLE ANTONUCCi

For the C-S-E

FONDA -- A recent spam attack that compromised the Montgomery County e-mail system has the Department of Information Technology rethinking its security measures.

Information Technology Director Daniel L. Colon said that during the week of March 4 one of the county's inactive e-mail accounts, a test account, was hacked and more than 60,000 spam e-mails were sent out in a three-day period.

"It resulted in us getting placed on black lists throughout the Internet. People who had accounts with Time Warner and Road Runner were not able to receive e-mails from the county because whatever black list they subscribed to had blacklisted us a spam server," Colon said. "We had to track down each administrator and tell them what had happened. We were able to track down the account that was hacked and disable it."

The department had to search through every e-mail account and database to see if any other accounts were compromised. Colon said the power outage that occurred March 4 didn't help the situation.

"It complicated things because we had problems with our generators," he said. "It made it harder to get through since we had to check every e-mail and database."

However by March 15 the county was back to normal and Colon said that besides the one account, no personal information was accessed, he said.

"This was strictly an e-mail attack," Colon said. "We do have strict security on our network so they couldn't get into our network servers or payroll because of the layers of security. I am pleased that our standards are good but the one area we need to beef up is our password standard."

Since the incident, the department has already beefed up its password criteria to a minimum of 15 characters but may require the same criteria countywide.

"We stress that people change their passwords every 60 days and not to use the same for multiple accounts," he said. "We have to think about our passwords differently."

In addition, the department is looking at its security procedures and firewalls to decrease the risk of another attack.

Colon said that in his four years of working for the county, this is the first time a hacker has gotten through the security measures, but it's not the first attempt.

"People are constantly trying to hack into our server. We have hundreds of attempts every day and we constantly get hit with spams and viruses but we have many filters and security," he said. "Out of all the e-mails we receive probably 90 percent gets filtered out and deleted. It's a full-time job keeping hackers out."

     

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