Presidio County Sheriff’s Office Enhances Cybersecurity and Communication Measures

PRESIDIO COUNTY — Discussions at recent meetings of the Presidio County Commissioners Court have centered around the need to enhance the county’s cybersecurity and communications systems. Representatives from the sheriff’s office have been advocating for various grants to bolster these systems. The goal is to make improvements that benefit the county as a whole, rather than focusing on any specific department.

This push for upgraded security measures follows a cybersecurity incident in Brooks County, a neighboring small county facing similar budget constraints. Brooks County fell victim to a ransomware scam, where officials had to pay $250,000 to regain access to their online data.

Data security breaches can impact any governmental department, but they are of particular concern for offices that handle sensitive personal information, such as the justices of the peace, the sheriff’s office, and to some extent, the county clerk. Financial departments with access to bank statements are also vulnerable to online scams that could compromise the county’s finances.

Mark Hannan, of Nectar Computers based in Alpine, provides tech support for the Presidio County Sheriff’s Office, which has the most computers and tech equipment in the county. Hannan emphasized the importance of being proactive against potential cyber threats, as cyber criminals are constantly evolving their tactics. Despite the potential costs, he explained that effective security measures ultimately come down to awareness, implementation, and quick response.

Shanna Elmore, the Executive Assistant of the Presidio County Sheriff’s Office, voiced concerns about the department’s tech resources following an outage during the Fourth of July holiday last summer. This outage affected the operation of the county jail and raised other operational challenges. In response, the department is working on a grant application with an external consultant to address these concerns.

One of the key technological challenges the sheriff’s office is tackling is improving radio communication in remote areas of the county. Two radio repeaters, located on Chinati Peak and along the river on FM 170, have not been operational for several years. Efforts are underway to secure a state grant of $283,000 to upgrade the system. These towers will not only benefit the sheriff’s office but will also enhance communication for the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Assistant Chief Patrol Officer Jaime Castillo of the Big Bend Sector emphasized the importance of these communication towers in enhancing collaborative efforts between law enforcement agencies. The ability to share frequencies and communicate during emergencies is critical for keeping communities safe.

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