How Derry and Strabane District Council Secured Essential Services Against a Growing Cyber Threat

Derry City and Strabane District Council provides essential public services for around 150,000 people and more than 5,000 businesses across the Derry City and the Strabane District area of Northern Ireland.

Many of those services rely on the council’s technology infrastructure in one way or another so keeping the council’s network up and running is a vital task, explained Paul Jackson, Digital Services Manager.

"Our network is really important,” he explained. “It needs to be up 24/7. If it’s not, then people can’t work and services suffer, which is bad for the community and bad for the council’s reputation. In addition to this we do our own payroll, so if the network is down, we can’t pay people or our suppliers."

A Vital Business Tool, Under Attack

Late in 2018, the security of the council’s email system was reevaluated. Paul said: "Email security is very important, though it’s not just email security. It’s security of the whole network and one of the main entry points to the network we need to keep secure."

A new breed of sophisticated cyber-attack techniques was not only putting the council’s on-premises email system under strain, they were also threatening the integrity of the entire network – and given that the council has around 650 email users across 30 sites, managing that threat was essential.

"We’ve definitely seen an increase in things like impersonation and ransomware attacks,” Paul said. “In some ways, the public sector is more open to that kind of attack. We’re a public body so the names of our key staff are in the public domain which makes it easy for someone to set up a fake email account and ask for a payment to be made."

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