Ferguson's tiny IT operation in the maelstrom

Another small community gets big hacker attention

Ferguson, Mo., the city now in the midst of protests over a fatal police shooting, runs the type of IT department that gets almost no attention.

Ferguson doesn't have a CIO or the type of big IT vision found in much larger communities, at least in the documents its makes available online.

It operates with two IT employees, a network administrator and IT specialist, and uses an outside IT service contractor for some services, according to budget documents. It's a city of only 21,000.

The police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9 has had enormous impact nationally, drawing attention from President Barack Obama on Thursday. It has also made this city a target of the hacker group Anonymous.

Anonymous has said that if police "abuse, harass - or harm in any way the protesters in Ferguson we will take every web based asset of your departments and governments off line. That is not a threat, it is a promise. If you attack the protesters, we will attack every server and computer you have."

Ferguson does not have a lot of computers.

In terms of PCs, the city has about 60 and its budget goal is to buy 10 PCs per year. If it can achieve that, "the annual life cycle of each PC is reduced to only 6 years, which is more in line with industry standards," according to city documents.

Anonymous did succeed in taking down the city's Website Sunday night. According to a report by a local station, KMOV.com, officials had removed personal information from the site the day before the attack.

The website, which the city recently spent $19,000 to redesign, appeared to operating normally Thursday.

The city is using VMware and operates a small sever room that the city said needed a new location, one that was at less risk for water damage. The city was also investigating the use of cloud services for some applications.

The hacker threat in Ferguson has some similarities to a rape case in Steubenville, Ohio. A community, population about 19,000, found itself under much attention from hackers, who sought police records.

Anonymous claimed to have the name of the police officer who shot Michael Brown and had published it on their Twitter feed, something police disputed. That feed was removed by Twitter.

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