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Cuyahoga Falls officials tout security of electronic billing

By admin Published: March 22, 2011

Gina Mace
Special to the Beacon Journal

CUYAHOGA FALLS: Switching the Cuyahoga Falls website to a different software program is saving the city about $25,000 a year, officials say.

Now the city hopes residents will add to the savings by taking advantage of e-billing for utilities.

Mayor Don Robart said the city is saving $9,000 a year in billing costs because 1,800 customers opted for e-bills in lieu of paper when the program started last year. The rest of the savings is from not having to maintain the old software.

Robart hopes with the launch of the redesigned website, more of the 25,000 utility customers will choose e-billing by clicking on the link at

Like other websites that accept credit card payments, the Cuyahoga Falls site is security compliant with the Payment Card Institute, said John Konich, the city's information technology services director.

''We have very strict credit card procedures that we have to follow because the credit card institute requires that,'' he said.

Those procedures include quarterly security audits. The last was completed in January, Konich said.

The city uses a third-party service for credit card payments, so account numbers and sensitive information such as Social Security numbers are not stored on the Falls site.

''We've been taking credit cards for seven years,'' Konich said.

While credit card accounts and other sensitive information remained safe, an errant file of contact information recently made its way to Google.

While switching over before the new site launched Feb. 1, a text file containing about 10,000 customer names and contact information — akin to a pages from a phone book — was not properly deleted, Konich said.

Google snatched up the file, making it available for search.

Matt Butcher, a Cuyahoga Falls resident who works in information technology, came across the file while doing a search of the Falls site through Google. He was able to access his wife's user name, address and phone number.

Butcher alerted the city to the open file Feb. 25.

When the file was not deleted immediately, Butcher appeared at the March 7 meeting of the Cuyahoga Falls City Council to address the issue.

After the meeting ended, Butcher was able to demonstrate for media how he came across the file.

It required typing a search specific to the Cuyahoga Falls website into Google, including a person's name. The information returned was random — sometimes an address, sometimes an email, sometimes nothing.

At no time during the demonstration did the whole text list pop up in the search.

Konich said he thought the problem had been fixed with a change in the configuration setting, until Butcher began speaking during the council meeting.

Konich contacted Google after the meeting, and the file was removed. He met with Butcher on March 8 to make sure the problem was solved.

''This is a case where an inadvertent text file didn't get deleted and got swallowed up by Google,'' Konich said. ''Google got it, Mr. Butcher found it and contacted the city, we had Google delete it and it's solved.''

Robart and Konich said they are grateful Butcher provided the information so the city could correct the issue.

''We aren't perfect. We're going to have faults,'' Robart said. ''That's why we need our residents to be our eyes and ears in the community.''

Robart said Cuyahoga Falls residents and utility customers can feel secure using the website's e-billing feature.

''I have placed a lot of faith and trust in John Konich over the years,'' Robart said. ''I can't say he's flawless, but [he's] as close to flawless as possible in guiding us through the maze of technology.''



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