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NC county's servers held for ransom by hackers
08 December 2017, 01:06 | Austin Hogan
County technology manager Keith Gregg said the county's backups were"highly effective. Credit David Boraks WFAE
Wednesday evening, officials say the county will not pay a hacker ransom to unlock their data on county servers that's been frozen by the malicious software.
"So all that information is intact", said Mecklenburg County Manager, Dena Diorio.
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". Because of a backup system, the hack didn't compromise any personal information or delete any data.
Cyber experts believe the hackers operated from Iran or Ukraine and infected the servers with a new strain of ransomware known as LockCrypt, she said.
The county also could try to restore the servers itself, though Diorio said that could take a long time and come at a larger cost. She said the county acted quickly to shut down services to prevent the spread of the virus after it was discovered. "And there was no guarantee that paying the criminals was a sure fix", Diorio said in a statement.
Hackers were able to lock down several servers of a county government in North Carolina with ransomware this week, locking local officials out of computer systems that manage inmate populations, child support, and other social services. In the meantime, county officials have been forced to revert to paper systems.
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Many Mecklenburg County services that rely on computer systems were slowed or unavailable Wednesday morning after hackers encrypted 30 county servers and demanded ransom.
Meanwhile, payments to the tax office must be made with a check, cash or money order, and code inspectors have been slowed down by having to use paper records, according to a list of affected services.
"If you pay the bitcoin, there is always a risk they won't give you the encryption key", she told reporters.
Mecklenburg, with Charlotte as the county seat, serves more than 1 million people as the state's most populous county. It also contained an email address and instructions on how 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. After the attack, the county disconnected most computer applications. The hackers' threat isn't to publish the files, but to keep them inaccessible.
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