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Coldwater, Michigan

City of Coldwater will upgrade internal computer network for cyber security

Aspen is the company that designed and built the city's FTTP internet system. 


City of Coldwater will upgrade internal computer network for cyber security

Don Reid
The Daily Reporter


Coldwater city council questioned the cyber security of the city network system when the Russian-Ukraine war started. The staff assured council members that the city and Coldwater Board of Public Utilities were doing their job. Now the city will upgrade its systems after a consultant's recommendation. Councilman Jam Knaack questioned only one proposal for implementation from the consultant. 

Pat Pool, Information Technology Director, said the city upgraded the internal IT system piecemeal over the last 20 years. "We originally wanted to make it easier to use." Last year the department hired American Municipal Power to complete a network redesign to secure its networks better.

With over 130 municipal power members, AMP has vast experience and maturity in protecting its municipal utility and utility control systems. Pool reported, "The network improvements will create a new foundation on which to build more effective security enhancements for the ever-increasing and complex threat landscape of the future. "AMP will put in the new system, which runs the city's internal computer system and its control system for power and other utility services, for $50,875.

Pool said he could get another bid from Aspen Wireless, which maintains the network but was reluctant to expose the working to other outside vendors.

Mayor Tom Kramer pointed out Coldwater is an AMP member. "We're part of the family."

The upgrade includes three major components, new network switches, next-generation firewalls, and services to implement higher security.

Low bidder Aspen Wireless will provide the switches for $81,600 with a 90-day expected delivery. The bid was $43,000 lower than the next bid. Aspen was the high bidder by $3,200 for the firewalls at $98,640.

Aspen is also the company that designed and built the city's fiber-to-premises internet system. Because of that, Pool recommended, "Our current contract with Aspen Wireless includes network support which will cover day-to-day technical support of this equipment."

Pool recommended the city purchase the 18 Ruckus switches and 8 Fortinet firewalls from Aspen Wireless for $180,240. On top of the new equipment is the reprogramming by AMP to meet security concerns. Pool said networks "were originally built with little security in mind. Coupled with the ever-increasing and sophisticated nature of bad actors, we believe it is prudent to re-evaluate the foundations of the network and assess the costs and benefits of redesigning these networks for the threat landscape of the future."

The work will improve the city system to deal with the current threat levels. Still, it will need to continue evaluating the threats and operating to prevent system damage. Nationwide utilities fear network intrusion could take down the power grid and local power systems. Governments and businesses face ransomware attacks from outside the country. These take control of internal computer systems until payments are made.

The cost of the upgrades will be split between the general government and CBPU. The enhancements are part of the new 2022-23 budget. Poll hopes regarding hardware, "this should position ourselves for the next 20 years."

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