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Security threats, increased workload stretching county's IT department beyond capacity

By Howard B. Owens

The workload for the County's IT department continues to increase and the need for reliable cybersecurity continues to grow, so Information Technology Director Steve Zimmer told county legislators on Wednesday that he needs more help.

He needs a deputy director immediately and another security analyst to work in the Sheriff's Office in 2019.

It appears he's getting both of his wishes. The committee approved a recommendation that a current vacant position be upgraded to deputy director at an additional cost of $20,000 for the remainder of the year (anticipated salary for the position is more than $70,000 annually).  

Committee members also encouraged Zimmer to start his search to hire a new security specialist in July so the new hire can start on the first day of the next budget yet, Jan. 1.

Zimmer pointed to major cyber attacks and ransomware infiltrations in Atlanta, Baltimore, Lincoln County, Ohio, and at ECMC, which cost the hospital $10 million in remediation.

“We’re spending a considerable amount of time looking at our logs, looking at our firewalls, our anti-virus appliances, trying to make sure we’re doing our due-diligence," Zimmer said. "I’m losing time every day to this stuff."

He said public safety needs at least two full-time people and right now he has one full-time person there and one person who has been taken away from other duties to help.

That means, he says, other IT tasks are being delayed.

Another major headache, Zimmer said, is the situation over at the Department of Social Services, which has long been part of the state DSS network but now the state is pushing much of the infrastructure off on the county.

There are three IT employees there who are not part of Zimmer's department holding together an outdated computer network.

"It is one of two DSS agencies in the state that doesn’t digitize anything," he said. "It’s all paper."

The state delivered 100 "zero-client" computers (meaning all software is on a server, not on the desktop) to DSS but they can't be deloyed because the network won't support them unless it's upgraded to 100 megabits. Currently, it's five megabits.

"(The upgrade is ) never going to happen, so this stuff is going to sit on a pallet shrink wrapped until the cows come home or we get together with state IT and figure out how to upgrade that network or we can get them on our network," Zimmer said. 

Problems like these, he said, he doesn't have time to deal with because of so much time of his time is spent monitoring security threats.

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