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Computer thieves target Cerro Gordo Courthouse; employee data comprimised

This news story was published on February 26, 2013.
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Cerro Gordo County Courthouse

Cerro Gordo County Courthouse

MASON CITY – Cerro Gordo County Treasurer Pat Wright confirmed today that an attempt to access and divert funds from a bank used by the county took place last Tuesday.

The attempt was unsuccessful, but personal data of county employees was compromised and may have been stolen.

According to Wright, and letters sent to employees and other outside entities, the county’s account with an internet-based tool called Shazam was accessed by an unknown and unauthorized person over the internet.  Wright said Tuesday that only 5 people in the courthouse are allowed access to the Shazam system.

Wright credited “checks and balances” at the local bank for preventing the removal of funds from the county’s account.  She said that funds held at the bank, which are general funds, were attempted to be withdrawn and diverted into at least several other accounts.  For safety reasons, NIT is not naming the bank that the thieves targeted.

“I was very disbelieving,” Wright said Tuesday, when she learned that the county’s computer system was under attack.  “Our bank called and advised us to shut our computers down.”

Wright credited the strict “barriers” at the local bank for protecting the county’s account.

“The barriers seemed like a hassle but it prevented the attack from being successful,” Wright said.  “I am very happy with their service.”

The employee data -mainly limited to workers who use direct deposit with their paychecks- that may have been lost during the attack could have included bank account numbers, bank routing numbers and social security numbers.

In the wake of the attempted access to the county’s bank account, and the possible compromising of employee’s personal data, the county has taken steps to ensure that any such attempt in the future does not get as far as this one did.

The county has secured an attorney to help communicate with employees and third party entities regarding the attack.

IT Director Scott Tepner will be working with TQ Technologies to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the internet and network security systems currently in use at the courthouse to determine if any additional steps are needed to protect electronic data.

The county will be working with third party credit monitoring companies to help employees that may have had private data stolen.  Personnel Director Tom Drzycimski will coordinate that effort and work with employees who have questions or concerns.

“No system is uncompromisable,” Drzycimski said Tuesday.  “But we will work to make sure ours is safe.”



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