TEXARKANA — A grant of almost $220,000 will help shore up cybersecurity in both Twin Cities.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently awarded the grant to the Texarkana, Texas’ Office of Emergency Management to fund buying data protection hardware that a City Hall news release called “a purpose-built immutable data security appliance.”
“Basically, it’s a piece of hardware that makes really secure backups,” said Brandon Uselton, director of Texarkana Water Utilities information technology. “Backups that are incredibly secure and can’t be touched by malicious actors.”
The hardware comes with 60 months of related licensure and support services, all part of the Texas side’s Fiscal Year 2023 “Cybersecurity Hardening and Disaster Recovery Enhancement Project.”
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“The impact of this grant on the ability of both cities and the water utility to recover from cyber incidents is significant,” Uselton said.
The hardware will protect electronic communication systems, information and services from damage, unauthorized use and exploitation.
“This will also protect our 9-1-1 call and public safety dispatching center, as well as safeguard water production and sewage treatment for the Texarkana region,” the release stated.
Citing security concerns, Uselton declined to specify any other steps taken in the wake of a late 2020 attack on city and county government computer systems that had devastating effects throughout 2021.
A ransomware attack on information technology administered for multiple agencies by TWU wiped out data and made many computers unusable. Budgets, billing, payroll and other operations such as court docketing were disrupted as personnel resorted to ink-on-paper record keeping and reconstructed networks and data sets.
“We’re very much security-centric, security-minded now. Everything we do we do through the lens of security and creating defense in-depth,” Uselton said.