On Thursday, Feb. 17, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners held an unusual closed session – one to discuss security matters – and, when the commissioners came out, they took an unexpected and somewhat mysterious action.

With no public discussion of the item that was nowhere on the agenda, the board voted unanimously to spend $418,000 over the next three years on upgrading the security of the county’s computer systems.

Though the reason for that move was a mystery at the time, information has come out since that may help explain the action.

Yahoo News, among several other national media outlets, reported recently that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security had, in early February, warned local governments and law enforcement agencies “to be prepared for potential Russian cyberattacks in conjunction with a possible invasion of Ukraine.”

As everyone knows, that invasion did take place.

Federal officials believed that military action taken by Russia would also likely be accompanied by cyberattacks targeting local governments and other government entities.

They also stated that they were currently seeing an uptick in Russian scans of US networks and they urged greater vigilance.

Yahoo News reported that, in early 2022, during a conference call, “the nation’s top cybersecurity officials briefed state and local government agencies and cybersecurity personnel, warning them to look out for signs of Russian activity on their networks. The federal officials also urged those on the call to dramatically lower their threshold for reporting suspicious activity.”

Soon after, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners held the closed session and, out of the blue, voted to approve over $400,000 for upgraded computer security over the next three years.

The commissioners have been unwilling to comment on the discussion in the closed session since it dealt with security matters. Security is one of the few legitimate legal reasons a government body in North Carolina can go behind closed doors and hold a discussion.

At the Thursday, Feb. 17 Board of Commissioners meeting, the motion authorized county staff to execute a contract with a computer security firm “to upgrade information security projects and services in the amount of $139,361 annually, totaling $418,085 over a three (3) year term beginning March 11, 2022, for the purpose of improving information security protections.”