Cyber security tops concerns for BOMA

Concerns about Town government cyber security has elicited a proposal to invest in a $140,000 Zero Trust Network software to help it get insured against cyber attacks.

“My biggest concern is we don’t have enough security to get insured,” Alderman Scott Meyer said.

“It’s definitely an eye opener that we’re not where we should be,” Mayor Ron Williams said.

As Farragut Board of Mayor and Alderman winds down its budget process, it discussed changes, such as adding new staff positions, merit and health insurance increases and purchasing new equipment during its workshop Thursday, April 14. However, the one proposed budget amendment caught Board members’ attention.

“In looking at the Town’s cyber infrastructure, I think, as we hear about cyber security in many cities and businesses getting hit with ransomware, malware, different things like that, which can really lock down your system,” Smoak said. “We looked to our insurer to see if we could get insurance on that.

“There are insurance coverages you can get that would help cover the cost if you had to go and recover your data or pay ransom,” he added. “Frankly, with the system we have in place, although good, it’s not at the level it needs to be in order to be insured.”

Adding the Zero Trust Network would be a stage one approach to getting insured. He said it would take $140,000 in the FY 2021-22 General Fund budget. Then in the 2022-23 General Fund budget, there would be another $140,000 addition “to get everything we need in order to be able to get our insurance coverage.”

“I am a huge proponent of the Zero Trust Network,” Meyer said. “I believe this is a very good move for us. We need that insurance.”

“I’d like to see this accelerated,” Williams said about the process to get the network.

“How much can we get done in a year?” Smoak asked Joe LaCroix, Town IT manager.

“You can have good and fast, but it won’t be cheap,” LaCroix answered “You can have good and cheap, but it won’t be fast. So, could we do it in a year? It would be pushing it.

“We’re looking at vendors to come in and help with this,” he added. There’s also another piece, too. We’re going to ask the departments themselves to go through their data and classify their data … isolate that data in their silos, so it would not be affected if we get hit.

“There’s a lot of work there, so it’s not the IT side of it,” he said. “There’s an individual department employee piece that has to be done as well.”

LaCroix said that part of the process would be done in the first year. The second year would involve the implementation. 

“Can we look at in it phases and not years?” Williams asked.

“We could re-evaluate as we go along, absolutely,” LaCroix answered.

Vice Mayor Louise Povlin asked if the data classification could be farmed out to a consultant instead of being done by the department staff.

“If I were going in and taking care of that, I would say anything over seven years old, I’m going to delete,” LaCroix responded. “And then, I just heard Sue (Stuhl, Parks and Recreation director) go ‘Ahh!’” 

“That’s our history!” Stuhl exclaimed.

On another note, the Board will be looking at proposals for new positions, which are estimated at $330,892 in FY 2023.

“When I talk to department heads, they give us a list of needs that they have in their departments,” Smoak said. “This year, we have several positions that we are proposing to the Board for including in our budget.”

Those positions include an engineering technician, estimated at $82,335 a year; an additional lead park attendant, $59,687; an additional lead recreation and events attendant, $59,687; and two Public Works maintenance operators, $129,183 for both.

Other proposed changes include an engineering truck for inspections, estimated at $24,500; a street sweeper, $250,000; and a John Deere mower, $35,250. Along with the Zero Trust (cyber security network), the additional equipment would total $449,750. Those expenses would come out of the General Fund.

Smoak also proposed 3 percent cost of living adjustments, $121,415; 3 percent merit increases, $121,415;  and 3 percent health insurance benefit increases, $33,866; however, also increasing employees’ contribution to health insurance by 8 percent.