Ransomware takes out major county servers in North Carolina

Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, where the city of Charlotte is located, was hit with a ransomware attack this week that took out major city servers and has forced some officials to work with old fashioned pen and paper. The ransomware was able to infect the network after a city employee opened an email attachment containing the software. The hacker is demanding a payment of $23,000 to restore the system, but so far city officials are refusing to pay.

The hacker is thought to be located in either Iran or Ukraine, though details are still missing. Servers used by multiple city agencies, including its taxation department and prisons, were locked by the ransomware, forcing officials to temporarily suspend certain things, such as electronic tax payments, and to create records by hand for other things, such as processing jail inmates.

Though the county's servers were affected, it appears the Charlotte city government's computer systems weren't involved in this mess, a fortunate reality considering the city's large population of more than a million people. As well, emergency services calls haven't been affected, though things like the county domestic violence hotline aren't able to process calls properly.

It's a big inconvenience for county officials who are having to manually take over tasks previous handled by various computer systems. In the case of that aforementioned domestic abuse hotline, for example, counselors have resorted to checking the voicemail system every 15 minutes due to the calls being sent straight to voicemail. However, there's hope for the near future.

Based on a report from The Associated Press, it appears the county had been properly creating and maintaining backups for its systems. Officials did consider paying the fine, but experts said the amount of time it would have taken for the system to be restored afterward would have been nearly as long as it'll take them to restore it themselves from the backups.

For that reason, the county has decided to continue on with the burdensome task of manually maintaining activities and records until the systems are back online, no payment necessary.

SOURCE: Associated Press