Ransomware Shut Down a Whole North Carolina County

Hackers freeze Mecklenburg County servers, demand $23000

Hackers freeze Mecklenburg County servers, demand $23000

In a news release, County Manager Dena Diorio said the regional government is confident its backups are secure, and it has the resources needed to restore the data. "It will take time, but with patience and hard work, all of our systems will be back up and running as soon as possible". Diorio said no personal information was compromised during the hack. The hackers, which are believed to be from either Iran or Ukraine, told Mecklenburg County they had until 1 p.m. Wednesday to pay a ransom of 2 Bitcoin, or $23,000. Diorio said it would have taken days to restore the county's computer system even if officials paid off the person controlling the ransomware, so the decision won't significantly lengthen the timeframe. "And there was no guarantee that paying the criminals was a sure fix".

At least two county commissioners said they had not been briefed on the additional information regarding the actual total of the ransom when contacted by WBTV on Wednesday morning.

It was an email with just such an attachment that was opened earlier this week by a county employee that triggered the freeze on much of the county's computer system.

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Each department is activating plans to continue operating during the outage, the county said.

The county of more than 1 million residents includes North Carolina's largest city, Charlotte, though that municipality appears not to have been directly affected by the hack.

During a speaking engagement at Charlotte's Kennedy Middle School, Governor Roy Cooper said the county did the right thing by not paying the ransom.

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Meanwhile, payments to the tax office must be made with a check, cash or money order, and code inspectors have been slowed down by having to use paper records, according to a list of affected services.

During a Wednesday press conference on Facebook Live, the county manager stressed that while 48 of the county's 500 servers were impacted, as well as multiple applications that run through those servers, no sensitive or confidential information is believed to have been compromised.

Such attacks are becoming more common - and more sophisticated. On Tuesday, employees couldn't print, call centers were down, and the code enforcement office had no access to electronic files stored on servers.

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Stay tuned to WFAE for updates on this developing story.

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