After cyberattacks, Ridgefield to ramp up internet security system

Ridgefield Town Hall

Ridgefield Town Hall

Macklin Reid/Hearst Connecticut Media

RIDGEFIELD — Due to recent cyberattacks, the town is ramping up its internet security under a new deal with Comcast. 

The Board of Selectmen approved a five-year contract with Comcast to "provide the next level up in security for the town's internet connections," Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. 

The selectmen OK'd about $15,900 for six months of an agreement for the upgrade during its meeting last Wednesday. The total cost will be about $30,000 a year or about $2,500 a month, which will be taken from the town's contingency fund. The town has in the past paid $252 a month for its internet service. 

The upgrade includes much faster internet service, better service response and access from Comcast, much higher protection from internet attacks, and improved reporting of attacks.

Marconi said in September and October, Ridgefield experienced an attack that flooded its network. He said hackers clogged the amount of information the system could receive "to bring everything to a grinding halt."

At the selectmen meeting, Andrew Neblett, the town's information technology director, spoke in depth of the attacks. He said the attacks, called distributed denial-of-service or DDoS, "achieve effectiveness by utilizing multiple compromised computer systems as sources of attack traffic."  

"From a high level, a DDoS attack is like an unexpected traffic jam clogging up the highway, preventing regular traffic from arriving at its destination," Neblett said. "Everyone's got their car, it's all running, the road is not dead or broken, but you can't do anything." 

Ridgefield has two "lifelines" to the internet, Neblett said. One is the Connecticut Education Network, which, he said, has been "very stable" but has a cap on its speed. The other is called a Comcast coax connection, which is slower than the Connecticut Education Network. 

Neblett said due to the increasing number of hackers, DDoS protection is needed to provide a "stable, secure highway."

"The problem is we have no protection now and if we get hit again, I have no answer for you," he said.  

He added Comcast is providing the town with the next level of security "that will capture incoming hackers" and prevent them from causing damage..

Marconi will distribute the contract for the internet security upgrade at the next selectmen meeting in January. The contract is contingent upon legal review by the town's attorneys. The town will pay an installation fee of about $200. The cost will go into the information technology department's 2023-24 operating budget. It will take several months to implement the new system.

Marconi said the town needs "to provide the level of intelligence and input to steer it in the direction for the future."