Mecklenburg County – These days it seems as if every time you turn around someone has endured a digital security breach, stolen records, or intellectual property held hostage by hackers. County governments, apparently are no exception – Mecklenburg County computer servers are being held hostage by hackers demanding cash for their release.
The deadline to pay up was 1:00 PM Wednesday, but as of the time of this writing, a decision by county officials has yet to be made.
“The 1 p.m. deadline to pay a hacker who is holding files on Mecklenburg County’s server ransom has come and gone, but no decision has been made on whether or not to pay, Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio said.
Diorio said that a decision is expected to be made at the end of Wednesday.
Diorio told Channel 9 that someone opened an email they shouldn’t have opened, which helped the hacker infiltrate the system and cause a countywide outage.
Mecklenburg County leaders said the ransomware used during the attack is a new strain.
Diorio said during Wednesday’s news conference that the hacker is asking for two bitcoin, which is about $25,000, in exchange for the 48 files that were breached. Officials believe the hacker is either from Iran or Ukraine.”
Amid the fervor for crypto-currencies is a very real concern by governments and skeptics that the digital stores of value are perfect vehicles for money laundering and criminal activity, this being a prime example.
And with Bitcoin’s recent price action, the longer Mecklenburg officials wait to make a decision, the higher the ransom becomes.
Luckily, the county manager assured residents that there is no personal or health related information at risk, and so far no data loss has been observed. They don’t feel as if the county was specifically targeted, but rather the victim of a phishing expedition in which hackers send out lots of ‘bait’ to ransom as many entities as possible.
County officials are set to make a decision about next steps by the end of Wednesday.