Mecklenburg unsure whether to pay $23,000 computer hacker ransom as deadline looms
With just hours left until a 1 p.m. deadline to pay $23,000, Mecklenburg officials were still debating Wednesday morning whether to pay the ransom that would release the county’s computer servers and files.
On Monday, a county employee received a phishing email and inadvertently opened an attachment that contained spyware and a worm into the county’s computer system.
The county has not released the phishing email. But Mecklenburg County spokesperson Danny Diehl said Wednesday that the email appeared to have been routed from another county employee’s e-mail address, making it appear as though it was a regular employee-to-employee communication.
The county plans to give the public a detailed list of what county services have been impacted by the worm, which manager Dena Diorio said Tuesday had “paralyzed” the county.
After the county’s servers froze up Tuesday, Diehl said the county were contacted by the hacker, who demanded $23,000 in bitcoin in exchange for an encryption key that would release the files. Diehl said the county is not releasing the information because it’s an on-going criminal investigation.
Diorio said Tuesday night the county is working with a third-party technology company to decide what to do. She said she is open to paying the ransom, but she said that paying it would present a number of problems, not including rewarding the hackers.
“If you pay the bitcoin, there is always a risk they won’t give you the encryption key,” she said. “And they could go back for more (money).”
Diorio said the decision on whether to pay will be made by her – and not necessarily by county commissioners.
“We need to determine how much it would cost (to pay) versus fixing it on our own,” she said. “There are a lot of places that pay because it’s cheaper.”
December 6, 2017 at 01:00PM