The Indian River County Property Appraiser’s office wanted a best-in-class Disaster Recovery system; TeamLogic IT’s team delivered one and more.
Floridians are famous for enduring hurricanes, natural disasters that challenge communities across the state to some degree every year. But in this digital age, another threat to Florida’s people and businesses looms – not in the physical world, but in the virtual realm: ransomware.
Per a study cited by Insurance Business America magazine, ransomware – the illegal practice of breaching public or private networks with malware and holding proprietary data hostage for payoffs – is among the world’s fastest-growing cybersecurity risks. And among hackers’ favorite ransomware targets are state, county and city governments.
Why? Because often local authorities lack the cybersecurity resources to combat relentless cyberattacks, and cybercrooks perceive these organizations as vulnerable, easy prey, demanding tens of thousands of dollars to release operational data and proprietary information about private citizens.
For Wesley Davis, who was appointed to the post of Indian River County Property Appraiser in early 2019, adding the digital menace of ransomware to natural hazards like hurricanes was more than the citizens of the region and their local authorities should have to bear.
The office of the Indian River County Property Appraiser (IRCPA) is responsible for fairly assessing the value of real estate when a parcel changes ownership in some way.
“We have about 92,000 residential parcels and about 10,000 commercial accounts [within our jurisdiction],” says Davis, attesting to the data-intensive process of appraising property values.
Hundreds of factors are assessed during appraisals – e.g., location, lot size, square footage, construction materials, architectural design, number of rooms, recent renovations, age of the building, and many more. All this data must be accurate and up to date for the IRCPA office to provide accurate, up to date – and, therefore, fair – appraisals.
“If we were to lose that information due to a cyberattack or hurricane, every municipality – and every attached authority and agency – would be impacted negatively in some way,” says Davis.
Not only is there financial risk, as the budgets for community services – such as police, fire and utilities – come from taxes calculated and levied based on the county’s $25-billion base of properties, but there also is operational risk, as data loss can impede and extend recovery and rebuilding efforts after a natural disaster.
In simple terms, if the IRCPA office loses critical data, the county’s citizens may lose economic value, as information necessary for filing insurance claims in the wake of a disaster or buying and selling buildings during the normal course business is missing or compromised.
And the longer the IRCPA suffers data losses, the more difficult determining, collecting and distributing tax revenues for funding community services would become.
Selecting, Deploying a Business Continuity Solution “20-50 times” Ahead of the Curve
To blunt the risks to IRCPA data from physical disasters like hurricanes and virtual calamities like ransomware, Davis assigned Don Biscoe, the IRCPA’s director of information technology.
“We wanted to be ahead of the threat curve, adapting newer technologies that will protect our office’s data and enable our team – technical and otherwise – to provide the best possible service to the citizens of our communities,” says Biscoe of his mission.
Biscoe’s team researched and evaluated “dozens” of Business Continuity solutions before selecting systems from Datto. The new solution backs up IRCPA data to the cloud on nearly an hourly basis everyday year-round, allowing the IRCPA to reinstate information rapidly from a recent “restore point” at its own offices and off-site at the region’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), what’s called a “hardened” facility where rescue, government and other community services work when necessary during crises.
In other words, in response to disaster damage or a ransomware attack, the IRCPA office can reload accurate, up-to-date files from hours prior, swiftly returning to routine operations with gaps in data being few to none. The IRCPA’s previous back-up and recovery systems relied upon costly removable storage hardware and significant human intervention.
“Without question, we are 20-50 times ahead of where we were a year ago,” asserts Biscoe. “We feel we have the tools that enable us to access key systems with virtually up-to-the-minute reporting anywhere we can connect to the internet.”
Business Continuity Acumen with Attentive, Comprehensive IT Services
To implement and support this powerful new business continuity solution, Biscoe turned to Frank Fender, Managing Partner of the Treasure Coast TeamLogic IT office.
Biscoe says Fender’s team provides IRCPA with the expertise and experience working with constantly evolving technologies such as Business Continuity systems, which is challenging for relatively small IT operations like IRCPA to acquire and maintain.
“Our local team has the ability to reach out to TeamLogic IT subject-matter experts for support with technical ‘heavy lifting’,” Biscoe explains. “The TeamLogic team has been available nights, weekends and holidays without complaint and delivered a first-class solution to us.”
“Several of our projects are complex,” says Biscoe. “TeamLogic follows through to supply additional resources when needed and make sure no ball is dropped.”
“Local governments and their agencies are all the rage for cybercrooks these days,” Fender says of escalating cyber threats to digital business. “We’re pleased to have played a role in helping the Property Appraiser’s team sleep better at night. Moreover, we’re proud to enable their services for the people of Indian River County.”
What’s next for IRCPA and TeamLogic IT?
Fender’s team is assisting Davis’ group implement technology that augments database and mapping capabilities. As the official mappers of Indian River County, Davis and his office supply vital data that enables authorities to predict and prepare for potential catastrophes such as floods and tidal surges.