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08 December 2017, 01:06 | Jan Cross
Mecklenburg County will not pay ransomware criminals $23,000 in ransom to unlock dozens of the County's online applications, County Manager Dena Diorio announced Wednesday.
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". She said the ransomware was a new strain called a "lockscript", which appears to have originated in Iran or Ukraine, and affected 48 of the county's 500 servers.
"It was going to take nearly as long to fix the system after paying the ransom as it does to fix it ourselves", she said. "And there was no guarantee that paying the criminals was a sure fix", Dioro says.
Updated 4:03 p.m.
It's unclear what the hackers will do if they don't receive the ransom amount. Diorio said the attack is affecting many county services.
"The bottom line is regardless of what direction we take, whether we pay or we don't pay, this situation will be resolved in days and not hours", Diorio said.
An email attachment opened by a county employee Tuesday initiated the attack.
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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Thursday, they will release a list of services that won't be available to the public because of the hack. Describing county services, she said: "We are slower, but we are up and running". DSS is asking people with reservations to call the customer service line (704-336-4547) to confirm their reservations, through December 11. But despite the outages, the county isn't planning to pay the $23,000 ransom demanded by the hackers.
He said it's not unusual for businesses and local governments to pay the ransom.
Diorio said the county hadn't ruled out paying the ransom, but understood that could be risky. Officials are working with a consultant to come up with a plan.
Mecklenburg, with Charlotte as the county seat, serves more than 1 million people as the state's most populous county.
Earlier, Diorio said there was no indication any data had been lost or personal information compromised. Credit card information is not saved on servers.
At this point, officials don't believe any information has been stolen, but malware was discovered on about 30 servers.
Such attacks are becoming more common - and more sophisticated.
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