TOWSON, Md. — Malware can be just a click away, and local governments, like big business, can be prime targets.
The attack on Baltimore City's computer system has caught the attention of surrounding jurisdictions like Baltimore County.
"When you see critical services grind to a halt,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr., “it's a basic function of government to make sure we're being responsive to people, and when these attacks are successful, it really does impact people's day-to-day lives – people who are trying to buy a home or trying to interact with their water service."
The county executive says when he learned of the city's fate, he immediately looked into how vulnerable the county might be to ransomware.
"Our information technology director feels pretty confident that we are protected here,” said Olszewski, “but we're doing a top to bottom review, because it is a good reminder and a good time to make sure our systems are protected and that we're doing all that we can to make sure government functions continue, but also that we're being good stewards of very personal information and records of the people we serve day in and day out."
In Harford County, County Executive Barry Glassman says his IT people are vigilant in warding off such an attack.
"Most jurisdictions have multiple layers of protection, whether it be email, data encryption, website controls, so we are under constant surveillance of this,” said Glassman, “A lot of the rating agencies and financial folks this year when we visit New York for your bond rating have begun to really require you and remind you to protect your data."
Glassman says a visit to one of the world's leading cybersecurity facilities at Aberdeen Proving Ground underscored the need to protect the county's computer system.
"I've been on Aberdeen Proving Ground to the computer location that shows these threats that come in from around the world all the time, in the millions per day,” said Glassman, “It can be a lapse of judgment – simply opening an attachment that looked normal, but really carried a virus in it – so you have to be constant. You have to have different layers to protect your data, employees and so forth."