After April cyber attack, Independence County dispatch system security now one of the top in Arkansas, JPs told

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Independence County’s dispatch system was the victim of a cyber attack in April, the quorum court was told at the Monday night meeting of the justices of the peace. But county and state authorities now say the system is one of the top five dispatch offices in Arkansas when it comes to cyber security.

The county’s Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Glen Willis and 911 Coordinator Brian Presley told the court about the ransomware attack and the steps that were taken to increase the security of the county’s Central Dispatch service since the breach.

In early April, Presley said he was summoned by a dispatcher who said a computer wasn’t performing correctly.

“When I saw the screen, I knew our security had been compromised,” Presley told the court. “Our captors requested the ransom in Bitcoin. We immediately went offline. The FBI was given the captors’ IP address.”

IP stands for Internet Protocol.

The process of rebuilding the 911 system began immediately. The computer system now has some of the latest technology available to avoid cybercrime, he said.

The same kind of attack had hit Atlanta, Baltimore, and 40 other dispatch offices in the recent past, Presley told the court.

When the security upgrades were completed the Arkansas Crime and Information Center (ACIC) sent four of its top information tech people to audit the facility. After the audit, Presley said he was told the facility is now in the top five percent of the dispatch offices in the state.

The state auditors were so impressed with the system, they have asked the county’s vendor to speak at the upcoming ACIC conference, said Presley.

Willis and Presley said they are currently evaluating Solacom and Telex, systems that will provide citizens with better service in an emergency.

Solacom is a 911 system that has the ability to link several counties together. It also provides more consistency and better coverage. Telex is a console-style dispatching system that assists telecommunicators in their day-to-day functions.

Reporting by Bob Qualls

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