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Software prompts fear of computer security Mayor defends program as needed to prevent improper use by workers

Remote-access software on City Hall computers has spurred confusion and concern among some city officials that it might compromise the private information of taxpayers and employees.

But Mayor Lawrence V. Soos, whose office is in charge of the city's computer network, said the software allows access only from within City Hall and is necessary to curb improper use of city computers by employees.

The matter will be discussed May 8 when the consultant who installed the software meets with Common Council members.

New City Treasurer Robert G. Ortt recently wrote a letter to Council members expressing worries that the software might make sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers and payment histories of city taxpayers, vulnerable.

His predecessor had also written a similar letter to the Council. Without a technology administrator, Ortt said he became even more concerned.

Council President Brett Sommer was also worried.

"The integrity and privacy of sensitive taxpayer and employee information is at risk," Sommer said this week.

He and other Council members want to know more about the software and its capabilities.

Bebars Baslan, the consultant who manages the city's computer network, described the software as "remote desktop viewing" and said it was installed as a temporary measure to help combat the numerous viruses that plagued the computer system.

Baslan told The Buffalo News that access is possible only from computers within City Hall and no one from outside can get into the system. He said the program is not spyware and is very common, similar to software that comes standard with some Microsoft Windows programs.

Sommer questioned Baslan's experience.

Soos said his former secretary recommended Baslan, who has done fine work, especially in dealing with the virus problem, at half the cost of the last firm that monitored the city's network.

Baslan said he has 10 years of experience in information technology, most recently as vice president of information technology for Cablevision.

e-mail: esapong@buffnews.com

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