December 2, 2022

Coldwater to upgrade computer network for cybersecurity

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Coldwater City Council questioned the cybersecurity of the city’s network system when the Russian-Ukrainian war began. Staff assured council members that the city and the Coldwater Board of Public Utilities were doing their job.

Now the city will upgrade its systems after a consultant’s recommendation. Councilman Jam Knaack questioned only one consultant’s implementation proposal.

Pat Pool, director of information technology, said the city has upgraded the internal computer system piecemeal over the past 20 years. “We originally wanted to make it easier to use.”

Last year, the department hired American Municipal Power to complete a network overhaul to better secure its networks.

With over 130 municipal power members, AMP has extensive experience and maturity in protecting its municipal utilities and utility control systems.

Pool said, “The network enhancements will create a new foundation on which to build more effective security enhancements for the increasingly complex and complex threat landscape of the future.

AMP will install the new system, which runs the city’s internal computer system and its control system for electricity and other utilities, for $50,875.

Pool said he could get another offer from Aspen Wireless, which operates the network, but was reluctant to expose the job to other outside vendors.

Mayor Tom Kramer pointed out that Coldwater is a member of AMP. “We are part of the family.”

The upgrade includes three main components, new network switches, next-generation firewalls, and services to implement increased security.

The lowest bidder Aspen Wireless will supply the switches for $81,600 with an expected delivery of 90 days. The bid was $43,000 lower than the next bid.

Aspen was the highest bidder with $3,200 for the $98,640 firewalls.

Aspen is also the company that designed and built the city’s fibre-to-premises internet system. For this reason, Pool recommended, “Our current contract with Aspen Wireless includes network support that will cover day-to-day technical support for this equipment.”

Pool recommended that the city purchase the 18 Ruckus switches and 8 Fortinet firewalls from Aspen Wireless for $180,240.

Added to this new equipment is reprogramming by AMP to respond to security concerns.

Pool said the networks “were originally built with little security in mind. Coupled with the ever-growing and sophisticated nature of bad actors, we believe it is prudent to reassess the foundations of the network and “assess the costs and benefits of redesigning these networks for the threat landscape of the future.”

The work will improve the city’s system to cope with current threat levels. Nevertheless, it will have to continue to assess threats and operate to avoid damaging the system.

National utilities are concerned that grid intrusion could destroy the power grid and local power systems. Governments and businesses are facing ransomware attacks from outside the country. These take control of internal computer systems until payments are made.

The cost of upgrades will be shared between the General Government and the CBPU. The improvements are part of the new 2022-23 budget.

Poll hopes regarding hardware, “it should position us for the next 20 years.”

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