Idaho Falls Citizen Journalism

CYBER ATTACKS 8-15-2017 LMS

Cyber-attacks constitute the most challenging issue facing all cities and counties in the country as well as every internet using individual.

Lemhi County Treasurer Mary Ann Heiser recently returned from the annual National Association of County Collectors, Treasurers and Finance Officers (NACCTF) Convention in Columbus, Ohio where she was one of two representatives for the state of Idaho. 

She told the Lemhi County Commissioners Monday, August 14, that one of his year’s topics focused on cyber-attacks, subsequent ransom ware data rescues and how to take cyber security precautions. She said the largest data attack to date involves 80 million clients of Home Depot. One of the country’s largest insurance companies has also been a target which means the release of all forms of private information and there are daily reports of data theft which compromise the privacy of many millions of people. The art of cyber-attacks has become a worldwide industry employing millions of workers. Heiser quoted figures of one million hackers per day employed in China alone. 

Her advice was, “Watch your bills.” As far as protection she said people might consider using credit cards which have a three day response time rather than debit cards which are instantaneous transactions for the user. Heiser said the hackers know everything about anyone who engages in social media where personal information is shared on a regular basis. She said Facebook is the easiest of all for access to anything hackers want to know. She added, “It’s not a case if you get caught, it’s when.”

Heiser said one safeguard is to execute a backup of personal computer information every day and keep the information “off premises” which means storing it on a separate system from the computer such as an individual computer disc. When that information is stolen it is for its return the hackers demand a ransom payment. If a victim opts to pay the ransom the payment is processed in a way impossible to trace.

Heiser told the commissioners she learned there are some free ransom-ware tools available and she will be sharing the information with other Idaho counties and officials. She said there are many software security programs on the market to protect against ransom attacks and can be found with a ‘cyber security’ internet search. The free downloads most recommended at the NACCTF convention were: Blue Coat K9 Web Filter at: www1.k9webprotection.com/; OpenDNS at: www.opendns.com/home-internet-security/ and the McAfee Web Advisor at: //home.mcafee.com/root/landingpage.aspx?lpname=get-it-now&affid=0&culture=en-in

Heiser’s all-expense paid trip to Columbus was funded by the Idaho Association of County Treasurers, not by Lemhi County.

As far as ongoing Treasurer’s Office business she said the staff is currently working on 73 parcels that are currently delinquent on tax payments. The office makes every attempt to locate the owners of delinquent taxes and by next year when deeds are taken by the county the list should be trimmed down to around five or six delinquencies. 

Arrangements for monthly tax payments can be made at the Treasurer’s Office to avoid the once or twice a year lump sum outlay.

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