Lakemoor uses hack as opportunity to improve website
A hack of the village's website in September caused a major inconvenience for Lakemoor, but the intrusion also created an opportunity, officials say.
"Basically, they took over our web server and deleted some of our files and removed our access," Village Administrator David Alarcon said of the hackers.
Alarcon discovered the hack when tried to get a leg up on his work day early that morning but couldn't access the village website to do updates from home.
"I thought it was basically I needed to come in and reboot the server," he said. "That didn't work."
The village summoned its technology consultant to investigate. For a time, the website remained visible. Then it went black.
A check of the activity log showed attempted and actual log ins from an address in China, Alarcon recalled.
"We took it offline before anything else was done that we know of. It was down at least three weeks until we got the very basics up," he said. Residents' payment and other information is handled by a third party and not compromised by the hack, officials say.
At the time of the intrusion, officials had been considering revamping the village's website, which was designed in 2008, to include its new logo and other information, but they had not budgeted for the $7,000 to $10,000 cost, Alarcon said.
Instead, officials decided to start from scratch.
"It would take us much longer to bring the website up using recovered files than it would to design a new website," Alarcon said.
Using common programs to create icons and other elements, Alarcon methodically has been rebuilding and reinventing the site.
Mayor Todd Weihofen said the intrusion has resulted in an opportunity.
"One of the things the mayor wanted was to be extremely user friendly. A lot of times, when you access government websites it gets very frustrating," Alarcon said.
Lakemoor spans three townships, six school districts, two counties and three fire protection districts, so one priority has been to provide basic information on those entities. Mandated information such as meeting schedules, audit reports, and freedom of information requests have been added. So has the ability for residents to make service requests.
Alarcon said the website is about 50 percent complete. The village no longer has a web server and pays a nominal monthly fee for security. And because there is no complicated web coding, village staff will be able to update information, Alarcon added.
Lakemoor hasn't been the only municipal hacking victim in Lake County. Earlier this month, Wauconda's official website was hacked and the municipal information it usually features replaced by anti-American and anti-Israeli photographs and pro-Islam messages. The village worked with the vendor to fix the problem and regain control of the site.
Mandi Florip, executive director of the Lake County Municipal League, said she hadn't heard of hacking being an issue in other Lake County communities.