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Mecklenburg County won't pay hacker, Kinston had previous ransomware attack

08 December 2017
Mecklenburg County won't pay hacker, Kinston had previous ransomware attack

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

Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio said the county won't be paying hackers $23,000 to unlock the county applications.

Such attacks are becoming more common - and more sophisticated. "It will take time, but with patience and hard work, all of our systems will be back up and running as soon as possible".

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.

Diorio said the county decided not to pay after consulting cyber security experts.

"Based on its attributes, it looks like the criminals are from either Iran or the Ukraine", Diorio said during the press conference.

In a statement from the county she says, "I am confident that our backup data is secure and we have the resources to fix this situation ourselves", said Diorio. "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.

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

Although the deadline passed without a payment, the hackers apparently were taking no action as long as county officials were in communication with them through cybersecurity experts.

"Our priorities are going to be systems that affect health and human services, like the Department of Social Services, Health Services, Child Support Services", Diehl said. The statement added county offices are open and affected departments are using "alternative processes" to conduct business.

On Twitter, Sandy D'Elosua Vastola, the city of Charlotte's director of communications and marketing, indicated its servers are "on completely different systems" and were not affected by the breach.

The computer problems haven't affected the processing of emergency calls because they are handled by the city, said Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Anjanette Flowers Grube. "The city's Innovation and Technology department has taken steps to ensure the security of the city's systems".

But WBTV has learned the demand is for "substantially" more than that, according to a county official with knowledge of the ongoing efforts to retrieve the county's data who asked not to be identified in order to provide details of the ongoing internal county discussions.