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CPD, city computers 'need updates' for security

Posted: December 13, 2013 - 8:43pm

Conway is one of thousands of public and private entities nationwide trying to figure out what to do about a widely used computer operating system that will be “orphaned” early next year.

Like many American cities, Conway’s information technology networks rely heavily on computers running Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system. On April 14, however, Microsoft will abandon XP and provide no further technical assistance or updates, including updates designed as responses to “hacker” type attacks or to close network security loopholes.

Lloyd Hartzell, the city’s information technology director, said that he’s asked for $180,000 to replace or update about 200 city-owned computers, most of them in use at the Conway Police Department.

After Microsoft quits supporting its XP system, Hartzell said, “updates will quit, and any bugs, any holes and anything [computer hackers] find opens it up.”

“That’s going to leave systems open; we have our financial system, 9-1-1, fire department, police private records, criminal records, those kinds of things,” he said. “There would be a serious security issue.”

Generally speaking, Hartzell said, computers less than four or five years old can be updated; older machines will have to be replaced.

David Hinson, executive VP and chief information officer at Hendrix College, agreed.

“At this point it’s going to be a really big deal because after April you won’t be able to get any bug fixes or system corrections online, so you’ll leave your systems vulnerable to attack,” Hinson said. “I would think [city officials] would want to [update from XP] right away.”

Jack Bell, city chief of staff, said that updating before Microsoft drops XP is a priority, but that the current draft of the 2014 budget does not have any money allocated specifically for addressing the XP problem.

“Right now, our view of it is that the council will look at that through the [coming] year and see what funds are available.”

The 2014 budget is still a work in progress. It must, by state law, be written as a balanced budget and approved by Jan. 31 by the Conway City Council. However, a $313,000 hit to the city general fund came this month when the council approved new city employee health insurance plans in response to a premium increase by the city’s insurance carrier. Largely in response to the premium increase, the 2014 budget is written with little-to-no capital purchases for city departments, including widespread system updates as would be required to update XP systems. Also, the current draft of the budget is written with projected “flat” sales tax, meaning no increase in sales tax revenue over 2013.

“That’s part of what was cut out of the budget,” Hartzell said of the XP updates. “[The council members] know about it, and the mayor knows about it… they’ve got a hard job over there and I don’t know what the answer is.”

Members of the council have been talking about figuring out a way to “find” more money in the budget to cover the health insurance premium increase and other possible or expected non-budgeted expenses without having to resort to a franchise fee increase, which is effectively a tax on city utility customers.

CPD public information officer Sean Canady said that CPD’s record management system, which includes everything from car crash reports to evidence logging, has become “more and more technology-driven over the past few years,” and that “when the city’s IT department tells us we need to update or upgrade our systems we take their advice — after all, they are the subject matter experts.”

County Judge Allen Dodson said that he was confident that the county’s IT department is “generally nimble enough that those things aren’t going to bother us,” and that he believed many county computers have been updated from XP. Also, he said, “We’re going to urge the elected officials over here who purchase their computers on their own budget to update their system by the sunset date.” County Sheriff Andy Shock said that he thought there were less than a half dozen computers in his department running XP.

(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached by email at joe.lamb@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1277. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

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ucantbserious
29096
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ucantbserious 12/14/13 - 12:57 am
3
0

Well...

I'm glad we have a Christmas tree instead.

Yay for priorities!!!

derbygirl
24
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derbygirl 12/14/13 - 08:30 am
1
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Computer updates

I wonder if the city will declare an emergency and waive the bid process on this purchase?????

ucantbserious
29096
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ucantbserious 12/14/13 - 09:19 am
3
1

Yep

They'll probably pay 10k each for brand new computers that don't work.

Elmer Fudd
1491
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Elmer Fudd 12/14/13 - 11:11 am
2
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Problem is

everyone has known for years, except for Mr. Hartzell I guess, that the XP platform was no longer going to be supported. This should have been a budgeted change a few years ago. Folks if you are going to use the Windows platform you have to plan for updates as Microsoft is going to bring out a new one every few years. They are in business to make money. Even a old timer like me went to Window 7 back in 2010 and thas was a little late in the game.

Zweck
2273
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Zweck 12/14/13 - 01:22 pm
2
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I have

I have little sympathy for it directors that get up against a wall because they aren't paying attention. Microsoft announces pretty regularly the end of support for OS's, applications etc. Either the machine gets upgraded os, replaced or moved out of circulation. XP end of life was announced when it was released, and than extended. In fact this is such a non story only a non technical person would be concerned or worried over this. The good news is that you probably already have a licensing agreement that allows pretty quick upgrades. Below is the link if needed. Now what worries me is why the Xmas tree isn't networked into the city systems so we can tell when a strand goes out ;)

http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/licensing-options/for-industries.aspx...

Elmer Fudd
1491
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Elmer Fudd 12/14/13 - 01:33 pm
1
0

Or when

the new fountain springs a leak. Could not find a link for leaky fountains.

Zweck
2273
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Zweck 12/15/13 - 06:03 pm
1
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And another thing

Vendor, who is the vendor? Rfp? What where requested specs for past two years (no pc in past two years should have come with anything less than win7 which is standard for businesses over that time frame) and the last ten years of rfp's, is the vendor consistently winning? If so, Conway ya got a problem.

intheknow_72034
41
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intheknow_72034 12/16/13 - 10:22 am
4
7

Facts

I love how people that have no clue what they are talking about chime in, to answer the questions:
1: Waive Bidding - Answer: Both Dell and HP are on State contract which means there is no need to go out for Bids.

2: The computers that have been purchased over the last couple of years have had Windows 7 on them. When a Department is given pricing and told to add it to their budget and that department either chooses to ignore it or put the money in and then use it on something else there is nothing that can be done.

3: The City has never spent 10K on computer, and the ones we currently have all work rather well.

InsGuru
4228
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InsGuru 12/16/13 - 02:33 pm
3
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Except...

"2: The computers that have been purchased over the last couple of years have had Windows 7 on them. When a Department is given pricing and told to add it to their budget and that department either chooses to ignore it or put the money in and then use it on something else there is nothing that can be done."

Except try to pass a new tax or some other sort of solution that puts the burden on the people of Conway because the leaders of Conway can't plan anything correctly.... Remember the "6 P's". Proper Planning Prevents P!$$ Poor Performance.

I wonder what they did when they upgraded from Windows NT to Windows XP? (as that seems to be about the frequency of Computer updates apparently).

I guess the CPD office staff can go look at the Christmas Tree on the tax paid day off they have to install / update the new computers.

intheknow_72034
41
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intheknow_72034 12/16/13 - 09:43 pm
2
1

Except...

P!$$ Poor Planning falls on the Departments that failed to listen to IT and take IT's advice. For the most part most Departments take what IT gives them and everything is good.

In the end it ends up being an IT Departments nightmare, having to order that many computers and get them all configured and installed by April. Its going be allot of long nights for Conway's IT staff.

and as for the Tax hike, lord I hope not.

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