Hackers were able to lock down several servers of North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County, which includes the city of Charlotte and surrounding areas, with ransomware on Wednesday, locking local officials out of computer systems that manage inmate populations, child support, and other social services. But despite the outages, the officials aren’t planning to pay the $23,000 ransom demanded by the hackers, believed to be in Ukraine or Iran, for the return of government files.
“I am confident that our backup data is secure and we have the resources to fix this situation ourselves,” Mecklenburg County manager Dena R. Diorio said in a statement on Wednesday. “It will take time, but with patience and hard work, all of our systems will be back up and running as soon as possible.”
Diorio said it would have taken days to restore the county’s computer system even if officials paid off the person controlling the ransomware, so the decision won’t significantly lengthen the timeframe.
Diorio said that officials made the decision after consulting with cybersecurity experts, who warned against negotiating with the hackers.
Data was frozen on dozens of servers after one of its employees opened an email attachment carrying malicious software. The cyber attack had forced county officials to revert to paper systems like deputies to process jail inmates by hand, the tax office turned away electronic payments and building code inspectors switched to paper records.
Hackers on Thursday tried to attack the county’s computer systems again through fake email attachments but Diorio said there was no additional damage, The Associated Press reported. She added that the county was disabling employees’ ability to open attachments made by third-party sites.
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. Calls to a domestic violence hotline are only able to go to voicemail, the AP reported, so counsellors have resorted to regularly checking the messages and trying to get back in contact with callers. The local tax office is also struggling to process payments.