Meck. County Will Not Pay Ransom To Hackers

Gladys Abbott
December 8, 2017

Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio says that the county has backup data and other resources to restore its computer system but that the process could be time-consuming.

"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 unknown hackers gave the county a deadline of 1 p.m. today to pay a $23,000 Bitcoin ransom to regain access to the files, which are locked by the hackers' encryption.

An expert on cyber security told The Associated Press that it's not uncommon for municipalities to be hacked with ransomware.

"It was going to take nearly as long to fix the system after paying the ransom as it does to fix it ourselves", Diorio said in the statement.

According to county officials, all of the information technology service systems in the county are shut down, impacting email, printing and business at most county offices.

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.

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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. "And there was no guarantee that paying the criminals was a sure fix".

Each department is activating plans to continue operating during the outage, the county said.

There's no evidence Mecklenburg County was specifically targeted, county Public Information Director Danny Diehl said - but for obvious reasons, the decision of whether or not to pay the hackers was a complicated one.

"Once you're in that situation, you really have no good option, so a lot of people and companies end up paying", he said.

Things may also take longer at county offices because until the issue is resolved because they will be doing things on paper instead of electronically. "So while they've frozen the servers, they've not compromised the data and not stolen data, as far as we know at this point", Diorio said Tuesday. Achieving that goal will require the county to use its backups to rebuild applications from scratch, the county said.

Stay tuned to WFAE for updates on this developing story.

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