Archive for Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tonganoxie council wants tighter computer login policies

August 31, 2010

The Tonganoxie City Council members agree that more stringent security procedures were needed for city computers but have yet to decide if an audit of computer activity is practical or necessary.

Discussion on the issue followed City Administrator Mike Yanez’s initial report Aug. 23 on procedures and policies for the use of city computers by city employee and volunteers.

The council directed Yanez to review the policies and procedures in the wake of Mike Vestal’s resignation as mayor last month when it was learned he used a city-owned computer to send an inappropriate e-mail, the second such incident in his three-and-a-half year term in office.

As a starting point, city employees and volunteers would be re-issued copies of the city’s computer-use policy and asked to sign an acknowledgment they have read the policy, Yanez said. Although the 7-year-old policy appears to be comprehensive, staff is requesting copies of policies from other cities to see if any improvements can be made, he said.

The city’s information technology consultant would be asked to suggest ways to improve password security while still allowing shared use of computers and software, Yanez said. The consultant would also be asked to suggest programs that allow searches of computer use and content, which staff could use to audit suspected misuse.

Commenting on Yanez’s report, Mayor Jason Ward said the action item was the need to develop login procedures that would track who was using a computer or a software program. But he said he didn’t support a full audit of Internet computer use — which then-Councilman Tom Putthoff had advocated two weeks earlier.

Councilman Burdel Welsh said because of the city’s lax password policy, an audit would be of little value. He suggested the hard drives of city computers be erased and reinstalled in conjunction with the start of a more stringent password policy so that abuse could be traced in the future.

A strict password policy would protect innocent employees, said Councilman Chris Donnelly, who was sworn in to his council seat at the beginning of the meeting.

In contrast to Ward, Putthoff continued to insist a complete audit to protect the city from further embarrassment.

“We need to know once and for all how widespread this is,” he said.

A full-scale audit of every computer would be very expensive, Welsh countered. But there was the possibility of conducting targeted audits or limited ongoing monitoring, he and Donnelly said.

Council members agreed they needed to learn more, possibly directly from the city’s consultant.

In other business Aug. 23, the council:

• Learned the city received $4,687 from in-state and federal reimbursement as a result of the Federal Emergency Management Agency declaring last winter’s holiday storms an emergency.

• Approved the $3,600 purchase of a rollout command center to be carried in the fire department’s new pick-up.

The council also approved Fire Chief Dave Bennett’s request to sell two used vehicles on the Purple Wave auction Web site.

• Accepted Tonganoxie First State Bank and Trust’s bid to provide financing for the lease purchase of a new police car of 2.79 percent interest. The city is paying $10,000 down for the vehicle and finance the remaining $20,000 for two years.

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