ABC 27 Investigates: Are municipalities taking security risks with your personal information?

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – “The digital underground is alive and growing and thriving, and you and I are the targets,” Chuck Davis, who teaches cyber security at Harrisburg University, told ABC 27.

ABC 27 continues to investigate local leaders using private emails for public business. In addition to questions about ethics and transparency, similar to the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s Gmail use, there are now questions about cyber security.

Davis says hackers are constantly working through emails to steal personal information.

“They’ll send an email and try to get you to click on a link, open an attachment,” Davis said. “Next thing you know, your computer’s infected with malware. You don’t know it, but the bad guys have a back door into your computer and your organization.”

That line of thinking applies to municipalities. As ABC 27 previously reported, supervisors in Lower Paxton Township and a handful of other municipalities are using personal email accounts instead of designated emails from their townships or boroughs.

Davis says personal emails are less secure because they lack special features like advanced malware protection. That can be problematic because municipalities house personal data like addresses and even payment information. If they get hacked, that data is vulnerable.

“There’s a responsibility you take by accepting that kind of data, especially financial, health care type of data,” Davis said.

He recommends always using designated work emails. He says they are not 100 percent safe from data breaches, but they do offer extra security.

ABC 27 has not heard of any recent local government hacking incidents, but Davis says communities should be thinking ahead as hackers develop more strategies and resources.

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