Don’t blame the SSA

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To the Editor:

I, like many others, was inconvenienced by the shutdown of the SSA site. However, I don’t agree with the folks who are strongly criticizing the SSA technology staff for this failure. Sure, I wish they had strong enough defenses to have stopped it, but let’s be realistic. The SSA budget is roughly $112 million. Let’s compare that to JBS meat packing, with a $50 billion budget, or Colonial pipeline with a $1.3 billion budget. Those much larger companies with much larger IT budgets were also struck by ransomware attacks.

There have also been complaints about the current website. The SSA board has approved a large budget to redesign the site, and earlier this year, users were given the opportunity to comment on/criticize the current site and make recommendations for changes. I participated in that survey, and I hope my comments are considered in the redesign. I’m sure current technology security will be a part of that redesign.

Every year the SSA technology staff requests more money for website and general IT security, and every year the SSA board makes difficult decisions about where to spend the limited budget available. Those who want more done to secure and improve the website are the first to complain about fare hikes. I have my own complaints about the Authority, especially noise at the Vineyard Haven terminal, but I think we all need to have reasonable expectations on what can be done with the limited resources available. I applaud the staff for keeping the boats running relatively smoothly, handling all emergency travel that folks needed, and getting people to and from the islands using manual systems. We are all lucky this didn’t happen July Fourth week.

As I write this on Saturday morning, the website is back up and running, 10 days after the shutdown. We need to all be aware of our dependence on technology and internet communications. The requirement for additional security on our personal devices, the strength of our passwords, and patience for additional security required on websites are realities of life today.

Peter Stam
Vineyard Haven