The Columbia County Commission recently learned just how costly it can be to try to prevent a computer virus.
At the county's Sept. 8 management financial services committee meeting, the commission was told it will cost the county more than $317,000 in security upgrades to prevent a virus attack like the one that hit the county government's network in early August, shutting down computers to several departments for more than a week.
"I think this is about as secure as we can get without being in a James Bond movie,'' said Todd Glover, the county's management services director, to a roomful of commissioners.
Already, the county had $232,500 set aside for system upgrades in the fiscal year 2004-05 budget. The remainder of the needed funds, however - $84,874 - will have to come from the county's contingency fund.
Committee members agreed the improvements are badly needed to keep hackers and viruses out of their network and approved the funds, forwarding the request on to the commission's next meeting Sept. 21.
Glover said the virus cost the county about $15,000 in overtime. And when it came to downtime from having no computers operating, he said, "You can't really measure that (loss).''
He also said it was still a mystery as to how the virus entered the county network.
"There's no way we'll ever tell where that came from,'' Glover said.
The new plans for the county's network involve several recommendations, including one that would segment the network between departments so a potential virus won't move to another department, said Lewis Foster, of the county's management services and technology office.
A new security system also will be added to help detect viruses and battle them before they can spread.
"If it sees activity that's abnormal, it will stop it,'' Foster said.
Foster said the county plans to upgrade its Internet bandwidth, too.
If that doesn't occur, he said, "It's going to slow down taxpayers trying to access information.''
In the end, Lewis said no plan is foolproof. But he said this plan should go a long way to protecting the county and its computer services to residents.
The August computer virus "has forced us to be proactive,'' he said.
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