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Victorville Approves Increase in Spending for IT Staffing Following Recent Cyber Threat

VICTORVILLE, Calif. (VVNG.com) – The Victorville City Council authorized a substantial increase in funding for IT staffing services in response to what was described as a recent cyber threat. The amendment to the existing contract with staffing agency Robert Half International Inc. was passed during a recent council meeting.

Originally, the contract was set for $218,000, designated strictly for IT-related operations within the city. However, an unforeseen cyber threat led the council to approve an additional $190,000, raising the total to a not-to-exceed amount of $408,000.

City Manager Keith Metzler highlighted the unforeseen need during the council meeting, noting, “When we last projected cost associated with this service, it wasn’t envisioning a cyber threat, and effectively that cyber threat that we experienced in September, October, November particularly, required us to use the services under this contract and rely on those services under this contract much more than we had forecasted.”

While the city has termed the incident as a cyber threat, unverified reports stated the ransomware group known only as NoEscape claimed it stole 200GB of data from the system. NoEscape, alleged to be a successor of Avaddon, is known for its Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) operations that involve encrypting files, changing wallpapers, and demanding a ransom through a TOR negotiation site. It has been linked to a variety of high-profile global attacks.

San Bernardino County found itself at the mercy of hackers just last year when the Sheriff’s Department experienced a significant breach when malicious actors managed to bypass security and encrypt numerous files within their computer systems. This disruptive action not only halted normal operations but also blocked access to critical data, forcing the county to pay an astounding $1.1 million in ransom.

The cyber threat in Victorville involved unauthorized access to government systems spanning from August 12 to September 26, with the personal data of residents at risk.

“The City identified suspicious activity within our network. Upon discovering the activity, we took steps to secure our network and commenced an investigation. A cybersecurity firm was engaged to assist. The investigation found that, between August 12, 2023, and September 26, 2023, an unauthorized actor gained access to certain files within our network containing some personal information,” the letter stated.

However, officials remained tight-lipped about the specifics of the incident, choosing not to label it as an attack and thus, a full understanding of the impact remains unknown.

The city is pursuing reimbursement for the costs incurred through its insurance carrier. Meanwhile, efforts to permanently fill current vacancies within the IT Department are underway, aimed at reducing the dependency on temporary services.

“I will share with you that it is not our intent to rely entirely over the longterm on the temporary staffing services but this is basically a bridge to get us past the process that we have to go through to recruit and fill some of our vacant positions,” Metzler stated.

Prior to voting on the item, Councilwoman Blanca Gomez raised concerns during the proceedings, citing her independent investigation into the company, Robert Half International Inc. “I did a brief research on my own on the company and I found a federal lawsuit involving discrimination against a female employee of color,” Gomez stated. “I just didn’t want a situation like that in the City of Victorville.”

However, Mayor Elizabeth Becerra interjected, calling for order and deeming the concern outside the scope of the meeting’s agenda. Despite Gomez’s reservations and her insistence on the necessity of further examination of the company’s background, the council proceeded with the vote.

Gomez cast the sole dissenting vote, as the rest of the council members voted in favor, resulting in the passage of the item and an increase in the contract.

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