Hackers hold NC county's computers ransom for 2 bitcoins

Hackers hold NC county's computers ransom for 2 bitcoins

Mecklenburg County officials still haven't decided if they are going to pay the ransom demanded by cyber criminals after dozens of servers were hacked Tuesday, County Manager Dena Diorio said.

The breach reportedly happened when a county employee clicked on a bad attachment in an email, exposing the files.

"If we do pay, the first thing that we need to do is to set up a crypto currency account", Diorio said, noting that it would take several days to set up the account, obtain the encryption key from the hackers, and test whether it works. The hackers told Mecklenburg County they have until 1 p.m. Wednesday to pay the ransom.

This is a developing story. It also contained an email address and instructions on how to pay the ransom. Diorio described the ransomware used in the attack as a new strain.

The county disconnected most computer applications to try to isolate the attack.

Diorio said no resident's personal information is exposed, but all of the Information Technology Services (ITS) systems in the county are shut down. (It's wonderful in this day and age that people still click on unusual email attachments.) Once the click took place, spyware and a worm were unleashed into the system, freezing all of the electronic files.

North Carolina's largest city says its computer system hasn't been affected by a hacking attack on the surrounding county.

Mecklenburg, with Charlotte as the county seat, serves more than 1 million people as the state's most populous county.

The sheriff's office also posted a message that its website wasn't able to process requests for information on jail inmates that are normally easily accessed by the public.

- Mecklenburg County had an intrusion earlier this morning on their online and computer systems.

Although the deadline passed without a payment, the hackers apparently were taking no action as long as county officials were in communication with them through cybersecurity experts. Diorio said departments including the code enforcement office were using paper records. She said she is the one who will make a decision whether to pay the hacker by Wednesday afternoon.

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