Memphis wants to hire a hacker

Memphis wants to hire a hacker

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The City of Memphis wants to hire a hacker to look for vulnerabilities within its computer network.

It comes as other major cities, most recently Baltimore, struggle to deal with growing cyber security threats.

Ransomware attackers hit Baltimore’s computer network in early May, bringing many city services to a grinding halt, including those that allowed people to pay speeding tickets and water bills.

A similar attack happened in Atlanta last year.

Cyber security experts said what happened in Baltimore and Atlanta can happen in other cities, big and small.

Mike Brady, with Cyber Solutions Group in Millington, helps Mid-South governments and businesses safeguard their networks.

He finds many simply unprepared, with old systems, potentially putting them at risk.

"I think it has a lot to do with what they want to spend their money on, budgeting, they've got bigger things," said Brady. "I don't think they stay on top of stuff as much as they should."

WMC Action News 5 asked the City of Memphis what it's doing to protect its network.

"As a rule, we do not discuss our cyber security in a public format," said Dan Springer, a City of Memphis spokesman.

The City did issue request for proposal (RFP) last month, looking for a vendor “to conduct penetration testing activities,” or ethical hacking, on its network to look for weaknesses.

"What an ethical hacker will do is they will look for what are called vulnerabilities that they can use to get into city systems and other types of applications that the city offers," said Avi Rembaum, vice-president of security solutions for Check Point Software Technologies, a global cyber security firm.

Rembaum said while most major cities do a good job in general of protecting their systems, hackers continue to pose a big risk.

"As the amount of money people are asking for in that ransom component continues to go up, it becomes in many ways a more attractive threat vector and that therefore will lead to more attacks taking place," said Rembaum. "When you start considering the breadth of networks, the breadth of communication and networks that are part of a city network, being 100 percent perfect is very, very difficult."

Aside from accessing city services, experts said there's another reason cities of all sizes should protect their networks -- to safeguard citizen information.

"If you look at any city, any municipality it has everybody's information, personal information, property information. They know everything about you. They have all your details, so if (hackers) got your information they could create havoc for someone's life," said Brady.

The deadline for vendors to submit proposals to the City of Memphis is Wednesday.

The City does not have a set budget for this project, and hopes to have a vendor selected by late June or early July, according to the RFP.

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