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Kansas City Star.
LOCAL Sparring continues as auditor gives computers a failing grade By BENITA Y. WILLIAMS - The Kansas City Star Date: 03/06/00 22:15
When it comes to computer security, Clay County received an F on Monday as County Auditor Vic Hurlbert reported the results of a county information services department audit.
Corey Dankin, a computer consultant hired by Hurlbert, also said he had found more than 12 recent computer security breaches in Clay County.
On Friday, Hurlbert said the county's jury lists for trials last November had been modified about 3:29 a.m. Aug. 31, about 2:39 a.m. Sept. 1 and about 4:56 a.m. Sept. 2.
"The findings in this report are deplorable and unacceptable," said Hurlbert, who read the report at the County Commission meeting.
He said the department suffered from personnel problems, gross computer network security negligence, unauthorized computer use and a lack of written policies, procedures and plans.
An 18-hour computer security software scan of the county's system also found 94 areas in the network that were highly vulnerable to security attacks, he said. The software also found 10 areas at medium risk for attack and 170 at low risk.
In a secure system, there should be no such areas, Hurlbert said.
Overall, the system received a medium security-risk rank of 65, on a scale with 0 as the low and a high of 100.
On Monday, Hurlbert recommended several changes, including closing the security loopholes, hiring a database administrator, using audit logs to monitor computer activity, and regular computer security audits by an outside firm. He also recommended establishing an information services advisory committee.
Hurlbert said he would research whether and how his findings should be referred to law enforcement for further investigation.
Tom Brandom, presiding county commissioner, agreed that the computer system needed help. But he criticized both Hurlbert's decision last week to place information services director Bob Williams on paid administrative leave, as well as Sheriff Bob Boydston's ongoing investigation into a burglary and unauthorized computer use at the prosecutor's office.
"Three of the senior programmers have been fingerprinted -- which doesn't make sense," Brandom said. "They have probably touched every computer in the county at one time or another.
"Instead of acting like public servants, they (Hurlbert and Boydston) are looking more like Rocky and Bullwinkle re-enacting the post-World War II McCarthy era -- where people were targeted, attacked and blacklisted...because of rumors and associations."
Brandom's blistering remarks came near the end of a 11/2-hour discussion of Hurlbert's report. He likened those investigations to the Salem witch trials and called them "out of control."
Hurlbert also said he had hired Dankin as acting information services director.
During the debate, County Circuit Clerk Rita Fuller defended Williams and his staff. She said they had done a wonderful job and asked that Williams be moved to her department and allowed to work on separating the court computer system from the larger county computer network.
Fuller also said that what appeared to Hurlbert to have been jury list modifications could instead have been programmers compiling the county's master jury list for 2000. She said the master list is developed once a year in late August and early September.
"It's not unusual for them to work late at night," Fuller said. "It's quieter."
However, Hurlbert had said Friday that his research indicated that jury lists were usually worked on during normal business hours.
Programmers Mark Hungate and Stuart Elliott also said Williams had identified some of the problems listed in Hurlbert's report but that the department was understaffed, overworked and needed commission funding.
Kathy Finnell, the special prosecutor who tried Brandom on allegations of official misconduct, also attended Monday's meeting.
Finnell said she became interested in Hurlbert's report after learning of the modifications to the November jury lists. Brandom was acquitted in November on two charges of official misconduct, and the jury failed to reach a decision on two others. Finnell said she planned to retry Brandom on the remaining charges this year.
"Any time there are allegations of potential compromise of the jury system, that's reason to be concerned," Finnell said.
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), March 07, 2000