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City of Syracuse, police taking steps to bump up cybersecurity

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
The Syracuse Common Council.

The city of Syracuse is entering into an agreement with a cybersecurity company to test the city’s network vulnerabilities, free of charge. This comes after the city school district and county libraries suffered cyberattacks last month. The agreement passed the Syracuse Common Council unanimously, but some councilors were skeptical. 

The company is called Indev and one of its cofounders is from the Syracuse area. Based in Washington D.C., Indev primarily does work for the federal government and Defense Department contractors. Dave Prowak, director of Syracuse’s Information Technology, said Indev approached the city about helping out with cybersecurity.

“Some of the same activities and services that they’re going to perform for us for zero, we pay people periodically to do the same thing," Prowak said. "We have penetration tests, we have vulnerability scans, we have this occur on a monthly basis. We have a risk assessment done. We’re always testing, paying people to poke and prod us.”

Some on the council were nervous about the company having access to lots of the city’s information. Councilor Khalid Bey shared in that concern.

"Nothing beats free, to be quite honest, but I guess the sentiment here is, nothing is really for free," Bey said.

The city cites two reasons why Indev is doing this. One, the co-founder from Syracuse wants to make a contribution to his hometown. And two, Indev can find out the needs of a midsize city, and expand their client portfolio into state and local government work. The agreement will last around 90 days. Prowak said Indev is going to expose things that the city can do better.

"It's a scary world out there, and the bad guys are very good at what they do," Prowak said. "Good security can always be defeated."

The cyberattack on the school district, also took down some Syracuse police cameras that were attached to the network. First Deputy Chief Joe Cecile said they missed a couple of major incidents that occurred, which could have been caught on camera. The police department is going to start running fiber optics through some of the city’s firehouses, so the cameras can be on a different network. The city is applying for a $50,000 federal grant to cover costs.   

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.