ANDOVER — After learning that the Town Office computers are running the outdated and unsupported Windows XP operating system, selectmen OK’d buying three new computers running Windows 8.1 Professional.

But they opted not to buy three new monitors, which kept the price at $2,200, plus $600 to $700 for information technology specialist Brian Phelps’ fee to set them up and install the TRIO municipal software.

“The price is actually a little less expensive than what we paid last time,” Phleps said. Three new monitors would cost $400.

“Some of your monitors are fine, so maybe just have one on hand,” he said.

Phelps explained how vulnerable town records are to data breaches and hacking while running the 14-year-old XP system.

“Right now, you guys are doing OK,” he said. “On a score of 1 to 10, I give you a solid 6 as to security for this infrastructure. I have three problems up here and those are with the machines that are running XP.”

He said XP support expired in July 2014 when Microsoft decided it would no longer update the operating system. “Therefore, the operating system is left open and every day that goes by, they can be compromised,” Phelps said.

He said if one machine is compromised, it will compromise the Town Office’s server, “and that could bring it all down.”

“You do not want someone to be able to get in, because once they’re in, they can get into anything else, and then you get into data recovery, which is thousands of dollars,” he said.

He said that as of last week, the Town Office now has an off-site data backup site, “which backs immediately, all the time, and it seems to be working seamlessly. (Office staff) don’t even know it’s there. If something should happen, God forbid, you still have the backup available. You can pick it up and go anywhere else to restart your Town Office.”

He said that before, data backup was done by town employee Hope Peterson. “She was doing a great job but it was manual backup, which was on an external drive which can be lost, tampered with, broken, stolen,” Phelps said.

“This (new backup system) is off-site, encrypted and secure, so thank you for doing that. You are taking steps in the right direction.”

Buying the new computers would take the town to a better security level, but Phelps said no one is ever 100 percent secure. He said the new computers would be good for four to five years but the software would be supported for six years.

Rich said that when she worked at the Oxford County Register of Deeds, they would change computers every three years.

“It’s a good rule of thumb,” Phelps said.

Farrington said that in the past, selectmen hoped they could replace one computer a year. “With XP (support) going away, that kind of threw our plan out the window. We did get burned by XP going away.”

“You’re not alone,” Phelps said. “Ninety percent of the ATMs in the world are still running XP and they’re on a Linux (operating system) base, so they’re protected, but most of the banking that is done is run on XP. No one anticipated having Microsoft drop it. They knew it was coming, but no one planned for it and that’s why you’re seeing all these data breaches when you turn on the news. It’s old technology.”

Rich said voters raised $2,500 for the designated Town Office technology account, so the board could take the money for the computers from that. “We have to bite the bullet,” she said.

She motioned to take that money to buy three new computers and take the money for Phelps’ fee out of the Town Office operating budget. It was seconded and approved by a vote of 3-0.

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