Mecklenburg County won't pay hacker, Kinston had previous ransomware attack

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Mecklenburg County is experiencing a county-wide computer system outage, impacting business at most county offices. A 1 p.m. deadline passed without any action, but county Manager Dena Diorio said the county has been in touch with the hackers.

It's unclear what the hackers will do if they don't receive the ransom amount.

Diorio said the county hadn't ruled out paying the ransom, but understood that could be risky.

The North Carolina cyberattack has caused delays for the Mecklenburg County jail and disrupted other county services ranging from domestic violence counseling to tax collection.

"In a memo to employees obtained by NBC Charlotte, Diorio wrote that a security check, "...is reporting that the cybercriminals are redoubling their efforts to penetrate the County's systems, primarily through emails that contain fraudulent attachments with viruses that could further damage our systems".

Anyone planning to go to a county office to conduct business is asked to call the office prior to their visit to make sure they can actually be served.

Things may also take longer at county offices because until the issue is resolved because they will be doing things on paper instead of electronically.

During a speaking engagement at Charlotte's Kennedy Middle School, Governor Roy Cooper said the county did the right thing by not paying the ransom.

"Once you're in that situation, you really have no good option, so a lot of people and companies end up paying", he said. A spokeswoman told WFAE workers are manually processing arrests.

She said the county had reached out to the cyber-criminals, who had demanded a ransom of two bitcoins (about $23,000), through a third-party cyber-security firm and decided against making the payoff.

He said it's not unusual for businesses and local governments to pay the ransom. Officials are working with a consultant to come up with a plan.

Earlier, Diorio said there was no indication any data had been lost or personal information compromised.

The county of more than 1 million residents includes North Carolina's largest city, Charlotte, though that municipality appears not to have been directly affected by the hack. And credit card numbers aren't stored on a county server. Achieving that goal will require the county to use its backups to rebuild applications from scratch, the county said.

This is a developing story.

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