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Joyce Endee

Town officials reviewing cyber security

September 16, 2021
Gilford officials are taking steps to protect its own electronic financial security after a town in the state lost over $2 million from cyber fraud.

On Aug. 23, town officials in Peterborough announced around $2.3 million in town funds had gone missing in an alleged case of Internet fraud by an outside party. Peterborough town administrator Nicole MacStay and board of selectmen chair Tyler Ward issued a statement that the town learned the ConVal School District had not received its $1.2 million electronic transfer from the town and later learned money for a bridge project had been diverted before. After investigation the town learned it had been the victim of an alleged email-based fraud. The US Secret Service was investigating the incident and traced funds that were turned into cryptocurrency.

In the wake of the incident, Gilford officials have been reviewing their cyber security to make sure this doesn't happen. Gilford's finance director Holly Burbank gave the selectmen an update on the measures being taken during Wednesday's meeting.

Burbank said all but one of Gilford's payments are sent out by paper check and not by automated clearinghouse (ACH) transfer. The only exception is for credit card services to Bank of New Hampshire, Burbank said they were running into problems with their payments not getting through on time and the transfers not happening quick enough.

Some payroll money is distributed through ACH, though these require an employee to submit a signed physical form requesting the transfer. The town clerk's motor vehicle also uses ACH to submit motor vehicle payments to the state.

ACH is used to accept payments from several different sources, but Burbank said no one can use these to withdraw anything from their account.

"It's for deposit only, there's no way that they can pull money out of our account so we're safe there," Burbank said."

She did call Bank of New Hampshire to get a review on their account safety, a representative looked over their accounts and said overall they are safe and made a few suggestions on how they can be safer.

Six people in town hall have access to ACH actions, all of which can only be conducted after being checked by another person. Bank of NH will soon meet with those six people to go over best practices. The decision was also made for Burbank to be the only one in the office who can change account numbers when two people had that authority.

The town's computer provider, Mainstay Technologies, also conducts periodic tests to see how vulnerable the town is to email phishing scams. Town administrator Dunn said the numbers of people who failed the test have significantly gone down and this time only one clicked on the link. There is also a filter in the town's email system that gets rid of phishing emails before that reach someone's inbox.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Varney Smith
Garnett HIll
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