Presidio County Sheriff’s Office to pursue improvements to cybersecurity, communications – The Big Bend Sentinel | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

PRESIDIO COUNTY — At the past two meetings of the Presidio County Commissioners Court, representatives from the sheriff’s office have pushed for a number of grants that would help beef up the county’s cybersecurity and communications systems. Officials hope that the improvements will benefit the county across the board, rather than favoring any one department. 

The push for enhanced measures comes on the heels of a cybersecurity scandal faced by Brooks County — another small county near the border facing many of the same budget constraints. Brooks County was the target of a ransomware scam — a type of digital virus that required officials to pony up $250,000 to regain access to their online data. 

Data security breaches could affect any governmental department but are particularly sensitive for offices that handle sensitive personal information — namely the justices of the peace, the sheriff’s office and to some degree, the county clerk. Online scams can also target financial departments with bank statements and other information that could leave the county’s finances vulnerable. 

Mark Hannan of Nectar Computers, a company based out of Alpine, serves as official tech support for the Presidio County Sheriff’s Office, which he said has the most computers and tech equipment of any department in the county. He warned that potential cyber criminals are always a few steps ahead of even the best repair services. “You could spend millions and millions of dollars on security, but it comes down to knowing, implementing and reacting,” he said. 

Presidio County Sheriff’s Office Executive Assistant Shanna Elmore explained that she had been especially concerned about the state of the department’s tech resources since an outage over last summer’s busy Fourth of July holiday, which left the department unable to operate the county jail — among numerous other issues. 

The department is in the process of drafting a grant application with an outside consultant to help fill some of those gaps. 

Another technological issue the sheriff’s office has been working to rectify is radio communication between officers on patrol in the county’s most remote corners. Two radio repeaters — one on Chinati Peak and another along the river on FM 170 — have not been operational for years. 

The department has been working to fulfill requirements for a grant from the state that would net $283,000 to revamp the system. The towers will also benefit the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Parks and Wildlife, who will be able to share frequencies and communicate with local patrols. 
These towers will serve primarily to allow state and county-level officers to communicate with each other — Customs and Border Protection operates its own system. Big Bend Sector Assistant Chief Patrol Officer Jaime Castillo explained that sheriff’s office staff can currently use Border Patrol frequencies to communicate during emergencies. “This capability is paramount in our collaborative efforts to help our local partners keep our communities safe,” he said.


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