Hackers hold NC county's computers ransom for 2 bitcoins

Server files held for ransom by hacker, Meck. Co. manager says

Hackers hold NC county's computers ransom for 2 bitcoins

"I am confident that our backup data is secure and we have the resources to fix this situation ourselves", Dena R. Diorio, the Mecklenburg County manager, said in a statement on Wednesday.

"It will take time, but with patience and hard work, all of our systems will be back up and running as soon as possible", Diorio added.

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

It was also unclear Wednesday morning whether the data breach was limited to just 30 servers, as first reported Tuesday night. The hackers have given the county a deadline of 1 pm Wednesday to pay a ransom of about $23,000.

"If we don't pay, we have to rebuild our applications from scratch, and that will take even longer", Diorio explained.

A couple county commissioners declined to talk about the attack, saying they don't fully understand the ins-and-outs of it. Commission Chair Ella Scarborough says she doesn't want the county to pay the ransom. The hackers demanded the $23,000 in Bitcoins as ransom, in exchange for providing the digital key.

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County spokesman Leo Caplanides said in an email that he could offer no further information.

Builders are among those who felt the hack's full effects on Wednesday.

She said the hacker didn't gain access to protected information on people's credit card data, health information or social security numbers.

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Diorio now says the attack affected 48 of the county's 500 servers.

Diorio said no resident's personal information is exposed, but all of the Information Technology Services (ITS) systems in the county are shut down.

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

Deputies processed arrests by hand and building code officers used paper records Wednesday as one of North Carolina's largest counties considered how to respond to a hacker who froze county servers and is demanding ransom.

The county is composing a list of all services that it won't be able to be offered because of the hack.

He said local governments are "easy targets" because they typically have older equipment and software than corporations or the federal government.

Diorio says the county is working with its outside cybersecurity contractor and has consulted with experts at places like the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Bank of America.

Paying the hacker comes with risks.

"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.

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