County weighs paying cyber hackers $26K ransom for servers held hostage

County weighs paying cyber hackers $26K ransom for servers held hostage

County weighs paying cyber hackers $26K ransom for servers held hostage

The county manager said that contrary to erroneous reports, the hackers are only demanding $23,000 in ransom to release the data - but the process of establishing a cryptocurrency account and using it to meet the demands could take several days.

"I am confident that our backup data is secure and we have the resources to fix this situation ourselves", Diorio said in a release.

Diorio said county technology officials will use backup data from before the ransomware attack to restore the system, but the rebuild will take "patience and hard work".

"The important thing is that nobody's personal information or health information has been compromised as far as we know at this point".

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.

A third-party cyber security firm hired by Mecklenburg County contacted the hackers and learned the ransomware used is a new strain called "LockCrypt".

Diorio said the county hadn't ruled out paying the ransom, but understood that could be risky. She said the county acted quickly to shut down services to prevent the spread of the virus after it was discovered.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Anjanette Flowers Grube said in an email that deputies are manually processing suspects who have been arrested because its computer system was affected. "And there was no guarantee that paying the criminals was a sure fix", Diorio said in a statement.

Each department is activating plans to continue operating during the outage, the county said. The local tax office is also struggling to process payments. He said he was told the county hopes to fix the problem "this week".

He said it's not unusual for businesses and local governments to pay the ransom. "We really don't want people to just show up and then get mad when we can't help them", Diehl 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.

Such attacks are becoming more common - and more sophisticated.

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.

Stay tuned to WFAE for updates on this developing story.

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