Southwick awarded grants of over $287k over last several years for cybersecurity | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

SOUTHWICK – It’s a nightmare scenario for any municipality, large or small: employees arrive at work, power up their computers and when they try log in to the network server, they are denied access.

In attempt to protect that situation from occurring, since 2015, the state has been awarding grants through the Community Compact IT program to provide funds to harden the network security of cities and towns, including Southwick, to minimize the risk.

“It’s very important,” said Town Accountant Laura Fletcher about the $288,102 the town has received since the program was started by the Baker-Polito Administration.

In mid-December, the Healey-Driscoll Administration announced the latest round of grants, which included just over $139,000 – part of the $288,102 — for the town’s cybersecurity infrastructure enhancements.

“The town has been continuing to enhance and harden its network security,” Fletcher said.

“We have to be proactive to avoid costly damage. It’s about being prepared,” she said, adding that most of the grant funds have been spent on software, not hardware.

The alternative, getting hacked, can be costly not just in dollars but in time spent to rebuild databases.

In July, the Athol Police Department’s network was hacked and several months later, it was still rebuilding its database months after it was lost when the town refused to pay a ransom of $30,000 demanded by hackers.

Southwick received its first Community Compact grant of $91,380 in 2019.

It was designated for the “implementation of converged virtual server infrastructure,” which is a type of computing architecture that combines computer storage and networking resources into a single system making it easier to manage the network.

In 2021, the town got its second CC grant of $57,325 to improve disaster recovery and enhance its cybersecurity capabilities.

Fletcher also said the enhancements allow the town to better serve its residents and pointed out the funding saved taxpayers money.

This funding comes from one of four Community Compact grant programs being run this fiscal year and will benefit 68 municipalities and school districts, including 13 first-time recipients, according to the announcement of the grants from the Healey Administration.

“The Community Compact program is an important tool for our administration to partner with cities and towns to advance best practices and meet the IT needs of the state’s 351 cities and towns,” Gov. Maura Healey said. “These technology grants being announced today will help municipalities modernize their systems and better serve the people of Massachusetts.”


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