Mecklenburg County server held for ransom

Micah Smith | WBTV

Spencer Merriweather Micah Smith | WBTV

Diorio said no personal information was compromised during the hack. Now that ransom price is being doubled as hackers have hit the Mecklenburg, North Carolina county government and are demanding 2 bitcoins.

Multiple files from Mecklenburg County's server are being held for ransom after they were hacked, County Manager Dena Diorio said Tuesday.

He said it's not unusual for businesses and local governments to pay the ransom. Diorio said, for example, that the county's code enforcement office would have to rely on paper records until the outage is fixed because employees there can't access the electronic files they normally rely on.

The situation is the latest example of cyber criminals deploying a form of software known as ransomware, which freezes up files on a computer network until someone enters a decryption code to unlock them.

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

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 created to address situations like this. Anyone planning to go to a county office to conduct business should contact the office first to ensure they can be served. The unknown ransomware subsequently encrypted the County's files.

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That list will be released Wednesday.

The county is working with a third-party technology company to figure out what to do.

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

If the county doesn't pay the hacker, they could attempt to decrypt the files but that would take more time and money. Is it actually cheaper to pay the hackers off to once again have access to critical files? At this time, there is no Estimated Time of Recovery (ETR) available.

Vice Chair Jim Puckett said that the hackers are likely to comply because it makes them look more credible in future attacks. "We really don't want people to just show up and then get mad when we can't help them", Diehl said.

She says it's her call whether to pay them and she's debating doing that.

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