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Spam Email Test from Palm Coast IT Department Causes a Stir for Using Vaccine Status as Bait

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An email sent out from the City of Palm Coast’s IT department last week is causing some concern due to the nature of its text. Sent to employees to imitate the kind of spam email they might receive with malware or viruses, the message’s purpose was to see which employees are willing to open an actual spam email and therefore open up the city to cyber security risks.

The problem? The email contained an inquiry as to whether city employees had received a COVID-19 vaccination. It told employees that Flagler County had instituted a new requirement for government employees to be vaccinated, and gave them a link to fill out an electronic form. Had it come from a spammer, this would be how a virus is imparted into a city computer.

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Ed Danko at a Memorial Day event in Palm Coast. ⓒ Stephen Helfrich

Since news broke about the contents of the test email, many have objected to the use of COVID vaccinations as the topic to get employees to engage. One such objection came from Ed Danko, a Palm Coast City Councilman first elected in November of 2020.

“Under the circumstances and present environment, in my opinion this is an unacceptable test on the part of our IT department,” Danko told interim City Manager Denise Bevan in an email communication. “Using the county as an excuse makes this even worse. There are a lot better ways to run a phishing test than using COVID vaccination requirements as an excuse. This ill-advised exercise only adds to the lack of trust of government by the public.”

The email also came up at a Monday meeting of the Flagler Board of County Commissioners. There were concerns among the Board that the county government had been invoked in the email prompt without prior notification, effectively putting the County in the path of backlash without their consent.

Doug Akins, Palm Coast’s IT Director, stood behind the function of the email. It was effective, he said, in providing employees a topic which provoked engagement. “The goal is to help us understand where we may need to do a better job at training employees on how to recognize when an email may be a phishing or virus attempt,” Akins said in a statement reported in the Palm Coast Observer.

“Clearly, using Covid vaccination was a poor choice for a computer test given the political divisions over vaccinations and mask mandates”, Danko told AskFlagler, expanding on his initial reaction. “It’s the wrong time. It’s the wrong place. It’s the wrong state. Government has no business asking for this type of personal information in Palm Coast.

“People have a choice to be vaccinated or not, and that’s fine, it’s their choice, a private medical decision between them and their doctor. In Florida people still have the right to keep that decision private. Not only is this phishing test in bad taste, it is also in total disregard for those that have lost family and friends to this virus.”

Written By

Chris Gollon is a Flagler County resident since 2004, as well as a staple of the local independent music scene and avid observer of Central Florida politics, arts, and recreation.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. The dude

    December 7, 2021 at 11:20 am

    Liddle Eddie Danko is just mad that he fell for it and clicked the link.

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