OLD MYSTIC, CT (WFSB) - There have been major security breaches at global companies, such as Facebook Marriott, and Dunkin’ Donuts, but recently, hackers are going local, hitting cities and towns.

Here in Connecticut, West Haven, Derby and the largest of all, Bridgeport, are just some that have been hit.

Channel 3 explains why cities are becoming such a hot target and the scariest thing, why there’s really nothing you can do about it.

No matter if you pay your taxes online or by mail, your information is stored with your town.

The same goes for if you have police, fire or EMS come to your home.

They take your information because they need it.

Once it’s out of your hands and in theirs, you’re trusting their cyber security is safe and Channel 3 learned, it’s not always the case.

In just the last 12 months, hackers hit West Haven, taking down 23 servers there, as well as Bridgeport schools and the Derby Police Department, where they held information at ransom.

“You go, ‘well, if they’re hit, who else is hit, and how safe are we,’” said Assistant Chief Angel Otano, Old Mystic Fire Department.

It was a wake up call for Assistant Chief Angel Otano at the Old Mystic Fire Department.

“There’s a lot of data here that someone could really make a lot of money off of,” said Otano.

When you think about it, they do. In the middle of a chaotic scene, a lot of your important information is being gathered.

“I have the patient’s info, and I have the next of kin’s info and I might have the info for their primary care provider too,” said Otano.

Many departments, like Old Mystic, are run by volunteers and there’s a chance your information is in the hands of a security system set up by an amateur.

“Previously, IT was done by a volunteer, so if the volunteer is not current and they’re just doing it because they like computers, then their skill level is not going to be up to what someone who is coming after you is,” said Otano.

So, Old Mystic went high tech and hired Kelser Corporation to upgrade their systems.

While Kelser has big clients like the Travelers Championship, they say it’s the smaller towns that really need vast upgrades.

“They’re consumer grade products that are not hardened. It’s a tossup, but we’re seeing more where there’s a lot more vulnerability in these environments,” said George Kudelchuk III of Kelser Corporation. Some employees might not be tech savvy and Kudelchuk says just one mistake could open up thousands to risk.

“Eighty percent of the threats are either coming from within the four walls. An employee clicking on something during their lunch break or clicking on an email they didn’t expect,” said Kudelchuk. Kudelchuk says it doesn’t take much to steal someone’s identity.

“Someone’s full name, social security number, date of birth, any type of financial history, medical history, that kind of stuff is very valuable if a hacker wants to become you,” Kudelchuk said.

Because there’s a lot of that type of concentrated data in one place, cities and town are like a treasure trove for hackers, which underscores the importance of solidifying security.

In Old Mystic, Kelser Corporation went in and looked at firewalls, how passwords were handled and how easily people could link to the department’s network.

After the upgrade, Otano says that one time cost pales in comparison to what could happen if information gets into the wrong hands.

“HIPAA violations on each are thousands of dollars so if we do 750 to 900 calls a year, that would compile, and we would be bankrupt in a matter of hours, if they were all exposed,” said Otano.

Since your town’s security is really up to your town, the best advice experts have is to do what you can to protect you and your home.

Expert said tips include:

  • -Don’t use one password
  • -Make passwords longer
  • -Don’t open unknown attachments, even if it’s from a known sender
  • -Whenever submitting information online, the site needs to read “https:”

Copyright 2019 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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