Hackers shut down Mecklenburg County servers, demand $23K ransom

Micah Smith | WBTV

Spencer Merriweather Micah Smith | WBTV

Mike Collins gets an update from Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio on how the county is handling the attack and what's next for the retrieval of information.

Officials in North Carolina's Mecklenburg County were in touch with hackers, believed to be from Iran or Ukraine, and planned to decide Wednesday evening whether to pay them $26,000 to win the release of multiple files held hostage on county servers.

It was also unclear Wednesday morning whether the data breach was limited to just 30 servers, as first reported Tuesday night.

Mecklenburg County isn't the only local government system hacked for a bitcoin ransom lately. "And they could go back for more (money)". Diorio said the process to get all of the county's systems back to full functionality could take several days. Credit card information is not saved on servers.

A hacker targeted county government computers in Mecklenburg, N.C. and is holding the files ransom for two bitcoins, officials said Tuesday. Diorio described the ransomware used in the attack as a new strain.

Diorio thanked the county's IT staff, as well as Bank of America, Governor Roy Cooper, the FBI, Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security for offering their assistance and support.

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The shutdown has affected email, printing and other county applications and disrupted routine business at most county offices, WSOC-TV reported.

It is still not clear whether the county will pay the ransom. "But she said they are switching to paper records for work on Wednesday", according to the Charlotte Observer.

Diorio is now working with a "third party forensic expert" to navigate the county's next steps.

"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. Of course, as Diorio mentioned above, paying off a hacker could embolden them to attack you again.

County services ranging from transportation to Medicaid patients to processing of arrestees have been slowed as employees use manual instead of computer-based controls.

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