City of Amarillo combating cyber attacks during COVID-19

KFDA City of Amarillo fighting against online scams

AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Cyber attacks are becoming more prevalent in our area during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief Information Officer for the City of Amarillo Richard Gagnon says cyber criminals use global pandemics as a way to take advantage of a large number of people.

“With the COVID virus rolling out, unfortunately cyber criminals have no conscience," Gagnon said. "They don’t see this global pandemic as a crisis, they see it as a massive opportunity.”

Gagnon says many extremely important government agencies have already been hit with huge cyber attacks, and this encouraged this City of Amarillo to increase their cyber security

“There have already been attacks on the World Health Organization, massive cyber attacks on the Department of Health and Human Services. Hospitals and labs around the world are being hit with ransom ware, and have had their I.T. systems shut down, and we’re seeing it in government as well at the federal, state, and local level," Gagnon said.

In fact, Gagnon says in the last two weeks, the City of Amarillo has seen a huge increase in cyber attacks, and much of that is, because many city officials are more vulnerable as they continue working from home.

“In the last two weeks of March, we’ve had over 500,000. So it’s exponentially elevated, and then you partner that with the fact that just like everyone else, we are having to open up systems to remote access as we need remote workers," Gagnon said.

The City of Amarillo will now have access to a multi-factor authentication software which will allow City officials to login from home without worrying about being vulnerable on at-home networks.

“Most people are used to some form of multi-factor authentication," Gagnon said. "For example, when you log into your bank, before it lets you log in, it’ll send you a text with a code that you have to put in, and it’s a way of verifying that you are who you say you are. It prevents access to applications or systems with stolen credentials.”

City officials aren’t the only ones at risk of cyber attacks.

Most residents working from home are also more vulnerable right now, and Software Engineer at CTG Tech Anthony Dehoyas says there are many basic things that residents can do to fight off cyber criminals

“Just the basics, you need to be making sure that you’re paying attention to where the emails are coming from," Dehoyas said. "You need to be paying attention to if they’re asking for credentials, knowing that nobody’s every going to ask for your credentials. No official organization is ever going to ask for your credentials, and then also paying attention to the links that are inside of those emails.”

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