Mayor W. Reed Gusciora announced last Friday that the City of Trenton will launch updated cybersecurity employee training over the next few weeks after the City successfully stopped a sophisticated phishing scheme that used fake email addresses and URLs to closely mimic official city accounts.
“We’ve heard of an uptick in fraudulent calls and emails against our residents throughout the pandemic,” said Mayor Gusciora. “Looks like City Hall is also a target, and this is just one of several cyber-attacks we’ve had to fend off over the last year. As such, we’re launching updated training modules for City employees to ensure those attacks continue to be unsuccessful in the future.”
The scam, which started targeting Trenton’s Request for Quote (RFQ) process in February, was uncovered by the City’s IT Department, under the direction of CTO Joseph Rivera.
Cyber criminals posing as the City Business Administrator – complete with phony emails and phone numbers – sent fraudulent RFQs to vendors for potentially millions in stolen goods. The CTO was able to track down that a spoof Website was created called “tren0nNJ.org” with an email email@example.com on NameCheap.com.
After notifying vendors of the situation, the City reached out to the U.S. Secret Service Trenton Office, which worked with the City of Trenton IT and Law departments to convince NameCheap.com that fraud had occurred. After a cease-and-desist letter was issued from the City, NameCheap took the appropriate steps to shut down the URL and all affiliated emails. To date, efforts to prevent damage from the scam have been successful, and no losses have been incurred by the City.
Following the scam, the City of Trenton updated its training protocols regarding cybersecurity and will launch an online training module for all employees in the coming weeks.
This event follows another attempted cyberattack in the Spring of 2020, in which a hacker diverted upwards of $982,000 in funds from the City of Trenton in relation to Brit Global Insurance Company. Trenton’s IT Department worked with the company as part of an extensive forensic audit that proved the City was not at fault for the breach. As a result, Brit Global Insurance refunded the stolen funds to the City.
“All it takes is one mistake for a cybercriminal to breach a network and potentially cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars in phony costs,” said CTO Rivera. “That’s why we’re excited to finally roll out the same type of cybersecurity training that is now standard at both the local and state level so our employees don’t let their guard down in the future.”
Phishing attacks occur when scammers use email or text messages to trick unsuspecting individuals into giving them their personal information. They may try to steal their passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers. Phishing emails and text messages often tell a story to trick someone into clicking on a link or opening an attachment. They may say they have noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts, claim there is a problem with an account or payment information, or even tell an individual they are eligible to register for a government refund.
Phishing attacks can be prevented by downloading the latest computer and mobile phone security software, using multi-factor authentication, and changing passwords every 60 days