City’s IT Department uses artificial intelligence to frustrate cyber attacks

David Travis

David Travis

Two weeks ago, simultaneous ransom ware attacks launched by what authorities suspect was a single criminal snared the computer networks of 22 Texas counties and the police departments of three Texas cities, demanding for their release a collective $2.5 million.

In various forms, attacks like that can happen to any entity or person at any moment of the day – even to the city of Auburn.

Of course, most of what the city of Auburn’s IT director, David Travis, and his brainy team of 19 do to ward off like attacks and keep sensitive information — including customer data — out of the hands of bad actors has to be kept hush-hush.

But as Travis told city leaders recently, the city’s cyber-defense systems have come a long way in a few months, and in that time the city has thrown up formidable fortifications that employ artificial intelligence, and fairly bristle with the latest technology.

“We’ve already used this tool to prevent some pretty expensive threats that have hit some of our users. Nothing they did intentionally, but it’s kind of the wild, wild west out there,” Travis said. “You go to a website, you don’t know what it is, you download something accidentally, and it could be bad.”

The reality that keeps the team’s eyes on the ever-alert is that greedy-for-gain criminals and hackers bent on mischief nearby and all over the world are always at it, constantly probing for weaknesses in the networks of governments, hospitals, businesses and private users.

Travis said the city’s system monitors all network traffic and the city’s infrastructure, assessing the behavior of every user who pops onto the system based on their normal routines. Any behavior out of the normal raises AI’s hackles, and it immediately blocks that user, until somebody in ITs security group can have a look-see.

“Whereas before, that was a ‘holy smokes, something just happened,’” Travis said, “… this is allowing us to be a little more proactive.

“(Holy smokes), that’s a technical thing,” one council member said to another, drawing laughter.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

The COVID-19 outbreak closed schools statewide last spring and has led to many school districts opting for remote learning in the fall. Pictured: A Decatur High School staff member takes cover from the rain while celebrating the graduating class of 2020 in June. File photo
Study: Virus cases must drop for state’s schools to safely reopen

Bringing students back in any capacity will lead to new infections, the report found.

Alki Beach. Photo by Alabastro Photography
Heat wave is on the way this weekend

Temperatures are expected to climb into the mid-90s on Sunday.

Guy busted for illegal race | Auburn police blotter

Auburn Police responded to the following calls for service, among many others,… Continue reading

This undated file photo provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows CDC’s laboratory test kit for the new coronavirus.
Latest COVID-19 stats for Auburn, King County

As of Monday, Aug. 11, this is where the city of Auburn… Continue reading

The Auburn Symphony Orchestra will go virtual at least until Dec. 20 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy photo
Auburn Symphony moves online for rest of 2020

Because of the ongoing health concerns and regulations surrounding COVID-19, the Auburn… Continue reading

Auburn School District contracts with developer to build new Pioneer Elementary School

The Auburn School District has signed a contract with the Seattle-based construction… Continue reading

Deputies find missing Auburn woman’s remains near Snoqualmie Pass

The King County Medical Examiner confirmed on Monday that a body found… Continue reading

Firefighters find vehicles engulfed in flames | Fire blotter

Between Aug. 3 and Aug. 9, the Valley Regional Fire Authority responded… Continue reading

Most Read