Mathews IT director seeks to provide protection from online threats

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on May 15, 2019 - 02:36 PM

Photo: Chuck Huntley, Mathews County’s director of technology, is a member of the Governor’s Cyber Security Advisory Board, helping to develop solutions for digital security in the county and across the state. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

Chuck Huntley, Mathews County’s director of technology, is a member of the Governor’s Cyber Security Advisory Board, helping to develop solutions for digital security in the county and across the state. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

Threats to security abound in the world of the internet, and Mathews County’s director of technology Chuck Huntley is doing what he can to protect the digital infrastructure, both locally and statewide. 

Appointed last October as the local government representative to the Governor’s Cyber Security Advisory Board, Huntley has been working not only to review the recommendations of the Commonwealth of Virginia Cyber Security Commission from 2015, but also to secure Mathews County’s digital assets and to develop interest in cooperating regionally to address the growing need for cyber security.

The recommendations of the commission concern such areas as election infrastructure and data, water plants, computer-installed traffic lights, and other local systems that are increasingly computer-controlled, said Huntley. But since a lot has changed in the past four years, he said, those recommendations need to be updated before the board can begin to determine ways to implement the recommendations.

Huntley said that there are a number of Virginia entities working on cyber security. The National Guard Cyber Brigade will do penetration testing of networks to determine whether they’re protected against common vectors of attack, he said, while George Mason University has a grant-funded project aimed at bringing people together at the local government level to take a regional approach to cyber security. Huntley himself has put together regional meetings for the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck, he said, but it has so far been difficult to get people to participate.

Because cyber security is a quickly-changing field and the threats are so sophisticated, Huntley said it’s hard for even multi-billion-dollar corporations to protect themselves from attack.

“What hope does Mathews County have if there’s a focused attack?” he said. “So, we need to pool resources and talents regionally to better protect the assets we’re the caretakers of.”

Huntley said he wants to be the voice of small, rural Virginia on the cyber security board because “sometimes the things they want counties to do, there’s no way to implement because of budgetary and staff limitations.” There are many more small localities in Virginia than large ones, he said, but cyber security for all localities is “a huge topic that touches everything we do,” from assessing and collecting taxes and applying for permits to dispatching emergency equipment and interfacing with state police systems.

“Every function of government that we do has an IT component,” he said. “It’s a lot to deal with, but we do the best we can. A lot of counties and towns in our area are in the same boat. We need to look at a regional model so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”