Mecklenburg County server held for ransom

Mecklenburg County server held for ransom

Mecklenburg County leaders announced they will not pay the ransom to cyber attackers who are holding files on the county's server.

"The bottom line is regardless of what direction we take, whether we pay or we don't pay, this situation will be resolved in days and not hours", Diorio said.

There is no estimated time on when the computer systems will be back up and running.

The attack happened when a county employee opened an email attachment that infected the county's computer system with spyware and a worm. The hackers have given the county a deadline of 1 pm Wednesday to pay a ransom of about $23,000.

Diorio said the county hadn't ruled out paying the ransom, but understood that could be risky. According to the county manager, departments are "up and running, but slower". On the other hand, hackers may not handover the key to unlock the files and come back for more money.

Right now, you can't look up or pay your property tax bill, and you can't apply for a job with the county.

During Wednesday's press conference, Diorio denied reports that the ransom was more than the original $23,000 that was initially reported.

In an emergency, victims are asked to call 911. Customer Connections can be reached at 704-336-4547.

She said the hacker didn't gain access to protected information on people's credit card data, health information or social security numbers.

Builders are among those who felt the hack's full effects on Wednesday.

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At least 48 servers were hacked during the incident, Diorio said during the media briefing.

Calls to a county domestic violence hotline are rolling straight to voicemail, so counselors are checking messages every 15 minutes, officials told reporters.

The compromised servers have been quarantined, and even potentially healthy parts of the system were shut down to avoid spreading the malicious program, said Keith Gregg, the county's chief information officer. This included county email, printers and copy machines. Without the internet, civil servants were doing their jobs using "paper processes", it said.

According to the Associated Press, on Wednesday Diorio said departments including the code enforcement office were using paper records.

Earlier in the day Tuesday, a Mecklenburg County source said the outage was "believed to be due to an external threat".

Third-party experts retained by the county believe the ransomware is "a new strain" known as "LockCrypt", and "very little is known about it", the county manager said.

"You're going to pay anyway, either through increased security or through ransom", he said.

"It was going to take nearly as long to fix the system after paying the ransom as it does to fix it ourselves". "So that's the conversation that we are continuing to have".

UNC Charlotte professor Bill Chu, who started the cybersecurity program at the school, said even in the most highly-trained workforces, 10 percent of employees will still open risky phishing emails.

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