Mecklenburg Servers Hacked, Files Held For Ransom

Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio talked to reporters Wednesday about this week's hacker attack on county servers

Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio talked to reporters Wednesday about this week's hacker attack on county servers. David Boraks WFAE

A hacker targeted county government computers in Mecklenburg, N.C. and is holding the files ransom for two bitcoins, officials said Tuesday.

Because of a backup system, the hack didn't compromise any personal information or delete any data. She said that the station has until 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 6, to make the payment.

"We don't believe we were targeted", Diorio said.

"We've been told by [the hackers] we need to pay two bitcoin, or $23,000 for them to give us the de-encryption to have the servers released and the files returned to us", says Diorio.

"It's concerning when this happens to government, it's concerning to an individual when this happens to themselves", County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour said Tuesday night. She said leaders are considering paying the ransom.

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

Each county department is activating its continuity of operations plan, which is designed for situations such as this.

That list will be released Wednesday.

Federal and local authorities were not involved in the investigation Tuesday night.

There's a risk you don't get the decryption key and don't get your files back. "There's also the chance if they think you'll pay, they may try to get you to come back again". Is it actually cheaper to pay the hackers off to once again have access to critical files?

The attack happened when a county employee opened an email attachment that infected the county's computer system with spyware and a worm.

WSOC reporter Joe Bruno tweeted that it is unclear where the attack originated, but the hackers are in a time zone seven hours ahead of Charlotte, which would include Russian Federation, where cybercrime is frequently based. A third-party group could restore said files, but using them could cost more than what the hackers were demanding.

"Absolutely not. If they can make us pay now for that, they'll make us pay for something later", says Scarborough.

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