Threat highlights cyber security for government sites

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Websites for the City San Marcos and the San Marcos Police Department were back up and running Thursday after they was taken down Tuesday due to security threats.

A YouTube video posted Monday night by someone called BitCoin Baron is claiming responsibility. That person says the hacks are in response to a Texas State student who says a police officer assaulted her in 2013.

“I do very little online because I know that the criminals are not intentionally targeting me. What they’re targeting are the methods which are being utilized,” said CEO of Cyber Defenses, Inc. Randell Casey.

Casey says some criminals want to get as much information as possible. He says they tend to focus on businesses, but they can target public websites too.

“It’s not a guy sitting in a distant location trying to intentionally hack,” said Casey. “The hackers have gotten sophisticated. It’s become syndicated and so now they’re sending out auto-bots and scripts just to data mine everything that they can touch.”

If a government is careful, it will secure sensitive information separate from the public website. But a look back in history shows people make mistakes and those mistakes cost taxpayers.

Former State Comptroller Susan Combs said in 2011 that “human error” put millions of Texans at risk for identity theft by displaying personal information online.

A current spokesperson for the office says the cost for that response tops $3 million, paying for everything from security consultants to credit monitoring and notification letters.

“It’s just like building a house,” said Casey. “If you don’t have a good architect and a good foundation, you’re going to have to pay the price when it starts coming down.”

A 2013 City of Austin audit found Austin did not have an “effective process” to protect personal information.

However, a spokesperson for the city released this statement Wednesday about cyber security:

The City of Austin takes the responsibility of securing the public’s personal information very seriously. We use multiple layers of security to keep City data protected. The City employs a staff of security professionals who evaluate and update the security of the City’s network.

We leverage partnerships with other agencies and law enforcement to continually review our use of security measures so that we can improve the way we protect our data. The city employs the appropriate federal standards like the Health Information Portability and Accountability, the Criminal Justice Information Systems standards and National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Austinites have entrusted the City with their personal information and we continue to make security and privacy a top priority.

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