Monday, May 20, 2024

Livestreaming resumes for city meetings

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After a nine-month hiatus, Granbury residents can once again watch city meetings from the comfort of their own homes.

Livestreaming officially resumed for the Granbury City Council meeting April 16 — the first meeting to be livestreamed following the city’s cyber attack last summer.

On July 30, 2023, the city of Granbury’s computer network was hacked, which resulted in the city declaring a catastrophe Oct. 17

“The initial infection started from something being clicked that activated the malicious software,” Granbury Director of IT Services and Patrol Officer Chris Collins said during a city council meeting last August. “That software used that user’s credentials to traverse the network. Anywhere that user logged into previously automatically infected those machines because the hacker had the credentials. Because that user was logged into our net motion system, it allowed that to travel from the police department side to city side.”

During the network hack, city utility customers were unable to make payments online and had to drop off payments in person. Credit card payments were also not accepted during the outage. Late fees and penalties were not collected and shutoffs were not conducted during this incident.

In January, utility billing resumed normally. All accounts that did not make regular payments or payment arrangements were subject to penalties and/or shutoff beginning in February.

“Tonight, we are back live,” Mayor Jim Jarratt said during the April 16 meeting. “Our feeds that you have been getting on YouTube, you can now just go to granbury.org, click where it says, ‘in the meeting,’ and you can be right here with us.”

With livestreaming resumed, City Manager Chris Coffman expressed his appreciation for the IT staff for being a well-dedicated group of individuals who provide exceptional effort to the city.

"We experienced the cyber event as you all well know, and they worked tirelessly to restore our systems, putting in countless hours of work,” Coffman said. “Additionally, they provided various support projects such as the city hall renovation, access and control implementation, and we want to commend you for your hard work.”

Coffman explained how on the night of the initial incident, Information Systems Technician Steven Swiney put in more than 20 hours of work. After a few hours of sleep, he woke up and continued his efforts to mitigate the network issue.

Likewise, Coffman said Collins has been a “blessing” for the city, with his depth of knowledge in cybersecurity.

“The fact that he is still one of our police officers is a double bonus for our city,” Coffman said. “He offered great leadership skills to his team and organizations. He spent more time than you can imagine on this event that we had in 2023. We spent literally hundreds of thousands of dollars upgrading the IT system to where it would be more robust moving forward. Basically, it took a five-year plan and he and his team implemented the five-year capital improvement plan last year. We’ve still got some more things to do, but he implemented that to get us where we are today, and his team worked tirelessly to get it done.”

Coffman added that in the midst of the cyber attack, Collins continued to renovate city hall with new wiring and cables, cameras and a security system, while also working with the city’s insurance provider to gain all of the benefits possible from the cyber expense.

In addition, GIS Analyst Ian Patrick continued to handle the day-to-day GIS requests and learned how to reimage and deploy user systems to ensure the timely restoration of user services during incident recovery.

"What that means is all of our computers that were able to be reused tend to be reimaged, so he did that in his office while the other guys were out doing other work," Coffman explained.

Swiney also obtained two certificates: one as a Spillman administrator and the other as a P25 radio system administrator.

"During this last year-and-a-half, we implemented the P25 radio system, and we had to have people trained to run those computers to run that radio system,” Coffman said. “(Swiney) was one of the first ones to get that training. He's also been actively pursuing his network certification, which he plans to complete this year.”

Finally, IT/GISD Technician Travis Watkins — the newest addition to the IT team — also received his P25 radio system administrator certificate.

"That's a big change for us,” Coffman said. “Now, we have two people here with the IT team that are certified to work on the P25 radio system that is basically the Granbury Radio Network, which serves hundreds of first responders at this point and will continue to grow.”

Granbury’s new regional radio network may be the first of its kind in Texas, allowing the Granbury Police Department to connect with several first responders in the area like Texas EMS, Air Evac and CareFlite medical transport companies, Hood and Erath County Sheriff’s Offices and volunteer fire departments, Stephenville Police and Fire Departments, Tarleton State University, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the United States Marshals Service.

“I just wanted to publicly recognize these gentlemen for their hard work and what they've been putting the time in and the effort,” Coffman added. “Most cases happen behind the scenes, and without their dedication and willingness to go the extra mile, the city's recovery from the cyber event would be greatly diminished and our IT services would not be as great as they are today.”  

Coffman added that Collins recently returned from a conference and was “shocked” at the level of security that’s lacking in the industry.

"Local governments are vulnerable, beyond what we can imagine or talk about, and we're very blessed to have this team working with us and providing the services behind the scenes all the time,” he said. “Thank you, guys. We appreciate it.”

Granbury City Council meetings are held the first and third Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m., while Planning and Zoning meetings are usually held the second Monday of every month at 6 p.m.

To watch the meetings in real time, visit granbury.org/live online.