Fayette County commissioners learned of attacks on the county’s email system in attempts to break in, perhaps to gain access to send spam email, which is junk and/or unsolicited email.
Michael King, the county’s IT (information technology) director, reported to the panel Tuesday he monitored several hacking attempts at the system coming from around the globe.
“I don’t know why we were chosen, but some hacker decided to try a brute force attack against our email server,” King said. “That added to our ticket numbers, because people were getting locked out of their emails.”
King went on to explain if a user logs in five times with the incorrect password, the user is locked out for an hour. The IT department can manually unlock it.
“This happened to Jane (county auditor, Jane Downard) a number of times. Somebody would be in their email, that hacker would try it again and it would lock their account and effectively knocks you out of your email; you’re no longer able to get in.”
King confirmed one day in August, there were more than 2,100 bad log-in attempts on county email accounts from China, Russia, Bulgaria, Rumania. “That has seemed to have stopped, but it could very well come back. I have no idea why they were attempting to hit us. It wasn’t any one account,” King said.
“There was no one account that was being targeted, so I think they were just trying to get into our server to use it to send out spam mail. Not trying to hack into it, if they were trying to do that, I think they would be focusing on one account. If they thought they the auditor had information they wanted, they would focus on the auditor’s email not just all the emails they could get access to.”
King also indicated he is searching for an automated, off-site company to use as a backup to the county’s information compiled daily. He noted something like this would run the county $10,000-$12,000 annually.
“I’m hoping I can find one cheaper, but I’m not anticipating it at this point after talking to three or four different companies and getting the same kind of numbers,” King told commissioner Gary Naylor, after the district 2 representative asked if that number was an annual figure.
King said he is currently manually backing up the system monthly and storing it off-site. An automated system would backup county files multiple times a day.