A North Carolina county is refusing to pay a team of cyberattackers $23,000 in ransomware even though their servers are frozen and most business is conducted on paper. Mecklenburg County officials said that experts advised them that this is the right course of action.
Cybersecurity experts reportedly warned county officials against negotiating with the cybercriminals. The jurisdiction is working on restoring computer activity from backups.
County Manager Dena Diorio expressed confidence that the backup database is intact and secure and that the county doesn’t lack the resources to fix the situation by itself.
It will take time, but with patience and hard work, all of our systems will be back up and running […],
After the hack, hackers tried to break into the county’s computer network once more on Thursday. Authorities said that the initial damage was contained so hackers were unsuccessful.
One of the steps to secure the system was to block employees’ access to e-mail attachments from third-party senders.
Government Work Slowed Down Substantially
The initial attack was deployed Monday when one of the government workers accessed an attachment that contained malicious software. Hackers were able to take over government files and keep them hostage. Their ransomware was two bitcoin which at the time were worth $23,000. Hackers prefer bitcoins because they cannot be tracked as easily as cash or other payment methods.
Diorio hired a cybersecurity firm to help her with the negotiations. The firm found that the hackers are from Ukraine or Iran. Of the county’s 500 computer servers, just 48 were compromised.
After the attack, government work has slowed down substantially. The police have to manually record their activities, marriage licenses cannot be issued, while people accessing hotlines are directed to voicemail.
Authorities estimate that the system could get back on track in a few days.
Image Source: Flickr
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