Hackers freeze Mecklenburg County servers, demand $23000

Ivan Schwartz
December 8, 2017

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 hackers holding Mecklenburg County's computer files hostage in exchange for payment are demanding substantially more money than first reported, WBTV has learned.

Third-party experts retained by the county believe the ransomware is "a new strain" known as "LockCrypt", and "very little is known about it", the county manager said.

WBTV says county officials were considering whether to pay the ransom.

The compromised servers have been quarantined, and even potentially healthy parts of the system were shut down to avoid spreading the malicious program, said Keith Gregg, the county's chief information officer. "And there was no guarantee that paying the criminals was a sure fix", Diorio said in a statement.

The hackers told Mecklenburg County they have until 1 p.m. Wednesday to pay the ransom.

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County officials are trying to decide whether to pay the ransom or begin what could be a lengthy process of restoring the servers from backups.

Population numbers for Mecklenburg County jails are expected to rise, the county said on its website, because the inmate releases have to be handled manually and the entire process is significantly slowed down.

Departments affected by the outage are implementing contingency plans. "We really don't want people to just show up and then get mad when we can't help them", Diehl said. It's unclear at this time how many county employees received the email. Describing county services, she said: "We are slower, but we are up and running".

He said it's not unusual for businesses and local governments to pay the ransom.

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. On Tuesday, employees couldn't print, call centers were down, and the code enforcement office had no access to electronic files stored on servers. Credit card information is not saved on servers. The hackers' threat isn't to publish the files, but to keep them inaccessible.

This is a developing story.

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