Cobb County to create cyber security team following unsuccessful phishing attack

Cobb County plans to add a new cyber security team by September to ward off threats against the county’s network.

Commissioners beefed up the county’s cyber security just weeks after Cobb was among several jurisdictions targeted by an email phishing attack earlier this month.

The commission voted 4-1 to create four new positions to build the team. Commissioner Keli Gambrill voted in opposition without commenting.

Cobb County intends to assemble the cyber security team by Sept. 6. The county will hire three new full-time network admins and a technology manager to supervise the team. Two current tech analysts will also be assigned.

Kimberly Lemley, the county’s information services director, told commissioners cyber security attacks are increasing around the globe, nationally and locally.

One of the most notable cyberattacks happened recently. Russian hackers launched a ransomware attack against Colonial Pipeline in May that crippled the Atlanta-based company’s fuel supply, leading to gas shortages throughout the Southeast.

The effort to add a cyber security team was in the works for several months before Cobb County got swept up in a phishing attack the first week of June, county spokesman Ross Cavitt said. Spammers emailed hundreds of county employees and briefly got access to the county’s system after some workers opened the email.

After accessing the system, spammers sent emails from what appeared to be an official address. The unsolicited messages beckoned recipients to click a link to claim federal stimulus money.

Cavitt said no county data was breached and there no reports of anyone falling victim to the scam. But the county’s IT team spent several days monitoring emails and thwarting repeated attacks from the spammers.

The phishing attack compelled county officials to expedite the vote to add the new positions to create a dedicated cyber security team.

“These threats are becoming more and more sophisticated and put our county more at risk every day,” Lemley said.