By SCOTT PESZNECKER
Several computers and servers used to store sensitive information in Calaveras County are protected by a firewall a piece of hardware that limits access from the Internet to private networks.
However, a few servers are without protection.
Howard Stohlman, the director of the county's Technology Services Department, worries that a skilled hacker could tap into the unprotected servers and access private files.
On Monday, Stohlman will ask supervisors to authorize the purchase of a new firewall system for $8,913 to protect all the county servers.
"If someone were to hack in, the price to correct the damage done could far outweigh the cost of the firewall," said Stohlman, adding that everything from personal health records to private employee information would be at risk.
The purchase would be paid for mostly with money saved within the technology department during the current budget cycle.
To maintain the service would cost $878 annually, starting July 2004.
None of the county Web servers has firewall protection.
Both CalWorks and Public Health have servers protected by the existing firewall, but Stohlman's memo said those servers are vulnerable until a new firewall is bought.
Stohlman said the county's protected servers have never been hacked into.
But a couple of years ago, hackers replaced the county's Web page with one of their own, he said.
The new firewall will foil most hackers.
"It allows us to put our Web servers in a safer location and to provide the continued security for the county network," Stohlman said.