Published: Thu, December 07, 2017
Economy | By Shawn Conner

Officials decide to not pay $23000 ransom to hackers

Officials decide to not pay $23000 ransom to hackers

Denes Farkas/iStock/Thinkstock (CHARLOTTE, N.C.) - Mecklenburg County, North Carolina will not pay "ransomware criminals $23,000 to unlock numerous county's applications that have been frozen since Monday", county officials said in a release Wednesday afternoon. "And there was no guarantee that paying the criminals was a sure fix", Dioro says. The county can restore the files itself, but Diorio says, that could take a long time and come at an even larger cost.

There is no estimated time on when the computer systems will be back up and running. Achieving that goal will require the county to use its backups to rebuild applications from scratch, the county said.

Charlotte City Councilman Tariq Bokhari, who has created cybersecurity programs, told Channel 9 that county officials didn't notice the hacker was invading until the city's IT staff noticed anomalies in network traffic.

Diorio said a comprehensive list of the departments that will be moving to paper will be released Wednesday.

County officials said this is a "new strain" of ransomware and are calling this situation "patient zero".

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Diorio said that although the deadline passed, there was still no decision whether or not to meet the demands.

The county manager said that contrary to erroneous reports, the hackers are only demanding $23,000 in ransom to release the data - but the process of establishing a cryptocurrency account and using it to meet the demands could take several days.

"We are again up and running, we are slower, but we are running", she said.

Diorio told WSOC-TV the county is considering paying up, but worry about what could happen afterwards.

Diorio said the decision to not pay the hackers came after consulting multiple experts in the cybersecurity field and realizing that the time difference for Mecklenburg County officials to do it would not be significantly different.

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"You're taking a risk when you do that", he said. She said the county acted quickly to shut down services to prevent the spread of the virus after it was discovered.

"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.

Diorio said county electronic files have essentially been frozen after the attack that started when a county employee opened an email attachment carrying malicious software. "The city's Innovation and Technology department has taken steps to ensure the security of the city's systems".

UNC Charlotte professor Bill Chu, who started the cybersecurity program at the school, said even in the most highly-trained workforces, 10 percent of employees will still open risky phishing emails.

A North Carolina sheriff's office is checking in arrestees by hand after a hacking attack on county government computers.

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