Hackers Hold Meck County Computer Systems Hostage, Demand $23,000 Ransom

CHARLOTTE, NC — Hackers are holding Mecklenburg County computer systems hostage.

The County Manager Dena Diorio says the outage could last for days, stopping business at most county offices.

The hacker wants the county to pay $23,000 to get the code that will give the county the computer applications and files back, and the cyber criminal wants an answer by 1:00 Wednesday afternoon.

“There are a lot of places that pay because it’s easier to pay, it’s cheaper to pay than to try to fix it on your own,” said Diorio.

She says it started when an employee opened an e-mail that had the virus on it. Hackers made it look like the e-mail came from a coworker.

“We don’t have an indication that anybody’s personal information, health information or protected information has been compromised, said Diorio. “So, while they have frozen the data, they have not compromised the data, and they have not stolen the data.”

She says employee social security numbers and your health information is safe. She says files like code enforcement files and inspection applications are frozen.

Business at most county offices is on hold.

The County is compiling a list of affected services and will release that Wednesday.

“It adds a continued layer of mistrust as to whether we’re running this effectively as we could,” said County Commissioner Jim Puckett

“There’s always the risk that they wont give you the de-incryption key, and you don’t get your files back,” said Diorio. “There’s also the risk that if they think you’ll pay, they may try to come back to you again.”

She says a third party forensic expert and a privacy council is helping address this. CMPD is not involved yet.