Police network walls off attacks

In the past three months, the Santa Barbara, Calif., Police Department saw a dramatic increase in the number of Internet attacks, said David Straede, systems analyst for the department.

'We believe most of these are random attacks and not terrorist-related,' Straede said. 'Hackers search for vulnerable systems throughout the world. When they find a system that's easily compromised, they use that one to open up other systems. We're seeing about one attack a day.'

The department moved to secure its network by installing a firewall to separate it from the rest of the city's WAN.

'We used to be one big, happy network,' Straede said. 'Any machine could talk to any other machine.'

The department installed five SonicWall security appliances from SonicWall Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., to secure its Internet access. The SonicWall appliance is an inch-tall rackmounted box that runs specialized software.

No dark setting

'It's basically a toaster that toasts and that's all,' Straede said. It has one function, to selectively grant access to inbound and outbound network traffic.

The department deployed SonicWall's Tele3 security appliance to secure connections to police headquarters. Also at headquarters, one SonicWall Pro isolates the network from a two-county WAN.

Less is more

One of the advantages of a secure hardware firewall like SonicWall is that 'you just plug it in,' Straede said. 'Just the fact that it has few moving parts makes it a little more secure.'

The department stores most of its financial, personnel and crime data in a Microsoft SQL Server database, Straede said. The database contains about 50G of statistics, including information about arrests and stolen property.

Half of all police departments don't have any staff dedicated to IT, Straede said, but rely on consultants or citywide agencies. 'There's a lack of awareness of network vulnerability,' he said. 'Agencies need to become more aware.'

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

Stay Connected

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.