Houston County Schools tables vote on cyber security program

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - The Houston County School Board continues to consider what action it wants to take after being hacked this summer.

It tabled a vote tonight on adding a new cyber security program.
There are a couple reasons.

First of all, the cost.

ControlAltProtect would cost just shy of $13,000 a month, certainly something to consider before making any decisions.

The members also want an attorney to look over the contract, but in the meantime, the system's safety could still be in question.

"Once they're inside the network, once they're inside your email, they've got a foothold, and that's when it starts costing money,” said ControlAltProtect CEO Brent Panell.

Brent Panell has seen countless malware attacks since starting the company ControlAltProtect two years ago.

He says the Houston County School system not losing any information or being asked to pay a ransom after being hacked is "unorthodox".

The system has wiped all of its 4,000 computers and reset them, but Panell knows it takes a forensic search to make sure every trace of the hack is taken care of.

"Remember, a hacker's going to break in, gain access and carefully lock the door and shut it back so no one detects they were there, but rest assured, they're coming back,” said Panell.

Which is why the system is considering ControlAltProtect and two other companies for not just preventing another attack, but also making sure they've totally nipped this one in the bud.

Money is the problem, especially considering how much they've already had to spend.

"We're still looking at preventing other attacks and replacing some hardware and all, but right now we're up around $100,000 and counting,” said Houston County Schools Superintendent David Sewell.

ControlAltProtect would cost $153,600 a year, and the superintendent said the other two companies the board is looking at are also around that price tag.

The system decided to have an attorney look over the control alt protect contract and will vote at the meeting in October, but the superintendent thinks they can't overlook the issue for too long.

"The cost is irrelevant,” said Sewell. “You have to do something."

Panell said the hacking company that hit the district is considered "reputable" by the FBI.

Meaning that typically, if they request a ransom, and it gets paid, they return all the data without any bugs.