Economy

NC county's servers held for ransom by hackers

NC county's servers held for ransom by hackers

Authorities in a North Carolina county say its servers have been hacked and are being held for ransom.

Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio said the county won't be paying hackers $23,000 to unlock the county applications. She said leaders are considering paying the ransom.

"Based on our discussions with our attorney, there are a lot of places that pay, because it is easier to pay, it's cheaper to pay than to try to fix it on your own", she said.

Cooper said the state was working with Mecklenburg County on restoring the system, and that adding cybersecurity has to be a top priority.

"Things that we were doing electronically, we are now moving to paper", Diorio said.

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.

County officials are trying to decide whether to pay the ransom or begin what could be a lengthy process of restoring the servers from backups.

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Diorio said county electronic files have essentially been frozen after the attack that started when a county employee opened an email attachment carrying malicious software.

Diorio said regardless whether or not county officials pay the ransom, the incident won't be resolved for several days. She said she is the one who will make a decision whether to pay the hacker by Wednesday afternoon.

"You're taking a risk when you do that", he said. Hackers were able to freeze servers that prevented county officials from accessing information stored on them. DSS is asking people with reservations to call the customer service line (704-336-4547) to confirm their reservations, through December 11.

Mecklenburg County says this will affect the ability to conduct business at most county offices and say there is now no estimated time for the system to be back on line.

On Twitter, Sandy D'Elosua Vastola, the city of Charlotte's director of communications and marketing, indicated its servers are "on completely different systems" and were not affected by the breach.

The attack happened when a county employee opened an email attachment that infected the county's computer system with spyware and a worm. "The city's Innovation and Technology department has taken steps to ensure the security of the city's systems". "I would say, really, that our roles require constant vigilance and constant reevaluation of our security posture, and, unfortunately, constant investment in modernizing and ensuring our assets are appropriate for countermeasures against this type of attack", Stoval said.


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