Thwarting cyber threats: Costly total for Virginia and localities

Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 12:53 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The price tag for the government to keep your information safe is skyrocketing and the attacks aren’t letting up. The cyber attack on The Colonial Pipeline wasn’t the first of its kind.

Experts say there are only two answers to this issue, training and money. That’s because even if you have the best system out there, one wrong click could still spell disaster.

“The attackers are relentless. They are around the world,” said James Walters, Chesterfield County Chief Information Security Officer.

Five years ago, the county says it spent about $661,000 to keep your information safe and cyber attackers out of the network. Over the upcoming fiscal year, it’s projected to cost about $859,000.

100 employees deal with information technology issues, five mainly with cyber security. Walters says they deal with a large range of technology attacks on a daily basis from phishing emails to other threats.

“Those are the kinds of things that worry us the most. Those attacks of the unknown type as these advanced bad actors develop different mechanisms and methods to try to compromise a network,” said Walters.

In Richmond, city hall reports spending about $625,000 on cyber security three years ago. It’s expected to spend about $1.2 million this upcoming fiscal year.

Virginia Information Technologies Agency provides security infrastructure services for 70 Virginia executive branch agencies and entities.

“There’s lots of different scenarios where we’ve stepped in and prevented things from getting completely out of hand,” said Michael Watson, Commonwealth of Virginia Chief Information Security Officer.

The state signed a five-year contract in 2018, spending $120 million total, or about $24 million each year.

“We’re seeing more and more that these attacks are having a real ripple effect on the real world and it’s important that we recognize and take steps to prevent that from becoming a problem especially within the state and local governments,” said Watson.

Henrico and Hanover Counties both declined to provide numbers. In an email, the Henrico’s FOIA officer said those tax dollars spent are exempt because they are confidential.

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