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Council of Governments focuses on cybersecurity

The threat of cyber-attacks loomed large at Thursday’s meeting of the Adams County Council of Governments (ACCOG). “A municipality is an enticing target,” said ACCOG member Ron Harris, who presented information to educate municipal leaders about the many online scams that threaten cybersecurity and outlined best practices that leaders can use to prevent those threats.

Some of the issues municipal websites face are a lack of policies or outdated technology for addressing cybersecurity issues. Other problems are related to the limited budget many municipalities have and their need to be transparent.

Best practices highlighted during the presentation include regular security updates, a data recovery plan, extensive cybersecurity training, holding vendor partners to high standards, and cybersecurity insurance.

“This is here now,” said Adams County Commissioner Randy Phiel, who encouraged municipal leaders to use multi-factor authentication (MFA). He said that currently Adams County does have cybersecurity insurance, but warned that without MFA government agencies may not have as many options in that area.

County manager Steve Nevada said that online scammers are becoming more sophisticated, hacking into local companies to give the appearance of being legitimate and then infiltrating email. “Really train your staff,” advised Nevada, encouraging the use of MFA. “MFA is a pain but it’s part of what we do to operate today.” He offered to help municipal leaders integrate MFA into their systems and urged them to contact him.

Before presenting a legislative report, State representative Dan Moul highlighted “real hero” Cathy Wallen who attended the ACCOG meeting. Moul related a recent incident where Wallen, district office manager for State Representative Torren Ecker, saved a man’s life at a recent dinner. He said Wallen was the first to react when an attendee collapsed and immediately began performing life-saving compressions. She received a round of applause for her heroism.  

Moul, the chairman of the agricultural committee, reported on a current movement to organize farm workers. “That would kill agriculture in Pennsylvania,” he said.  Moul also warned about a new type of avian flu which can be passed on easily and wipe out entire chicken populations.

His third concern is the destruction of the county tax base by the Civil War Trust which buys land in the county for historical preservation. Moul threatened a class action suit against the state of Pennsylvania to bring attention to the matter and said he would pay the filing fees out of his pocket. “I’m looking after taxpayers, not the park service,” he said.

The Adams County Planning Department is updating the county’s heritage plan and is looking to include lesser-known historic resources that are important locally. The county office is also urging local leaders to encourage people to fill out the current transportation survey that can be found on the Adam’s County website. Every two years the State Transportation Commission (STC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) update the 12-year program. As part of this update process, a public comment period is held which includes a transportation survey and an online public forum to collect public input. It will be available until April 30.

After hearing reports from representatives of Bermudian Springs, Upper Adams, and Conewago Valley School Districts, Board member Bob Gordon said ACCOG has advocated for school districts for years and that a future presentation would highlight Adams County schools. “How can ACCOG work and assist school districts,” he asked. ACCOG president Terry Scholle agreed and encouraged all school districts to be represented at the monthly meetings.

Robin Fitzpatrick, president of the Adams Economic Alliance thanked the county commissioners for selecting them as one of the 14 recipients of the ARRF monies for county projects. She said they will be using the $300,000 to assist middle-income home buyers with down payment assistance.

Other projects currently underway include the purchase of 50 acres of contaminated land in Cumberland County, and a new small business loan program with a focus on tourism and restaurants that will be unveiled in April. 

Carl Peters, Destination Gettysburg Director, Gettysburg has seen an occupancy rate increase of 23 percent over the same period last year. “Domestic leisure travel is very popular right now and that’s good for us,” he added.  

Bob Gordon said he “hopes to make 100,” as the ACCOG attendees celebrated his birthday. “I am now ninety-plus,” he replied later when asked his age. Gordon serves on the Hamiltonban Township council and has been an active member of ACCOG for many years.

Featured image caption: A cake and an ovation were presented to honor ACCOG member Bob Gordon, at Thursday’s meeting. The ninety-plus-year-old has been active in many areas of Adams County government for many years.

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Judith Cameron Seniura is a freelance reporter. She began her journalism career in the early ‘70s and has written for newspapers, magazines, and other media in Ontario, Canada, Alaska, Michigan, Nebraska, San Antonio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

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