How secure are local utility and government websites?

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by Jamie Grey

KREM.com

Posted on May 24, 2014 at 8:43 AM

BOISE -- You've probably paid some type of bill online, but how secure are those sites? A free online scanning program allows consumers to check the security certificates and protocols on any site.

KTVB tested local utility companies, city, county and state websites where you can pay things from taxes to parking tickets.

The test is simple: Just copy and paste a website address into the free online program, click submit, and wait about a minute.
   
The idea is checking for outdated security protocols that could put your personal information, even credit card numbers, at risk.
   
KTVB tested 20 Idaho government sites from the transportation department where drivers renew vehicle registration, to Idaho Power, to county and city websites that offer pay online options for various services.
   
We found A and B ratings for all but a few sites. As examples, parts of Canyon County, Twin Falls and Boise's sites got failing grades.

Customers would potentially enter some basic personal information in some of those sites, like names and addresses for the online marriage license application in Canyon County and license plate numbers for the parking tickets payment portal in Boise. 
   
While those parts of sites appeared to lack some current security protorcols, once we got into the actual payment screens through outside vendors, those sites got good marks.
   
For example, the City of Boise's site and parking ticket look-up portion where you'd enter your license plate gets an "F", but the actual payment page where you'd enter a card number gets an "A-".
   
After we told the city what we found and asked about the sites, spokesman Adam Park responded, in part, "The site that received the failing grade is the portal site where citation and license plate numbers are entered before customers are routed to the Velocity site. The City considers this rating to be completely unacceptable and this weekend is updating the faulty server that triggered the poor grade."
   
Park says no customer credit card or personal information has ever been at risk due to the outdated security protocols on the page. The city says they had planned some upgrades, and the site should be graded higher for security by Monday. He assures payments are safe and secure.

Canyon County made immediate changes after KTVB asked about parts of its site getting failing grades. The county explained the site did well on other test sites and the change was minor to raise the grade on the test used by KTVB. The site now gets a "B" grade.

To check websites yourself, click here.

 

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