Osawatomie City Hall

Osawatomie City Hall

Osawatomie City Hall

OSAWATOMIE — The city of Osawatomie’s network servers were subjected to 47,000 cyberattacks during a one-month period earlier this year.

Most of the attacks emanated from inside Russia.

Bill Justesen, the city’s director of information technology, delivered that sobering news during the City Council’s April 14 meeting.

The city has two networks, one for City Hall and the other for the Osawatomie Police Department, Justesen said. Two internet service providers connect the city’s two networks to the internet, he said.

“Between January and February, we had approximately 47,000 attacks against our network,” Justesen said. “That’s 47,000 direct attacks against our servers.”

He then noted those cyberattacks were against City Hall’s network and did not include police department numbers.

Justesen said the city is subject to multiple relentless cyberattacks on a daily basis from the internet, and Osawatomie is not alone.

“We know other municipalities are getting attacked as well,” Justesen said. “One was down three or four months. That’s a long time to not have access to your system.”

He cited another example of hackers taking down a couple of communities’ 911 call centers.

“On March 21, 2022, President Joe Biden warned the entire nation of additional attacks by the Russian government and its proxies, which we had both seen and documented in January and February of this year,” Justesen wrote in a summary of the situation that was included in the City Council’s April 14 agenda packets. “We currently have firewalls assisting with blocking some of the attacks, yet we need additional layers of protection to identify and mitigate more sophisticated ones that are appearing.”

During the meeting, Justesen laid out for council members how the city of Osawatomie had been a cyberattack victim, despite having several layers of network security.

“It actually caused us to lose all of our phone lines and also to have no connection with the internet,” Justesen said. “At some points, it got to the point where we were losing 10 percent of our connectivity per month, which meant for a full three days out of a month we had no phone service. That was the police department, by the way.”

Justesen said he is looking to get more security on the preventive side that sits between the internet and the city’s networks to fend off thousands of attacks every month.

He proposed entering into an agreement with Sentinel Intrusion Prevention Systems for two of its Sentinel Outpost security devices, one for each network.

“I’m going to suggest we go with protecting both (networks),” Justesen said. “Otherwise, it’s kind of like wearing safety glasses with one of the lenses missing.”

The agreement would require a one-time upfront fee of $4,977.90 and then a monthly fee of $1,168, Justesen said.

The quoted numbers represent the cost for both security devices, not per device, he said.

“They are set up to assist us with their expertise, and they have people looking out 24/7 for threats on the networks,” Justesen said.

Justesen said the company also is ready to offer its expertise if a situation arose in his absence. He said he talked with multiple customers who were impressed with the company’s service and its representatives.

Council members voted unanimously to approve the agreement.

City Manager Mike Scanlon said the city is likely to see cyberattacks increase in the months ahead.

“I would imagine over the next 12 to 18 months, the number of attacks from Russia will only go up, because that’s their only way to retaliate against the Western countries that are supporting Ukraine, without going to war with the rest of the world,” Scanlon said.

News Editor Doug Carder can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or doug.carder@miconews.com.

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