CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Mecklenburg County will not pay ransomware criminals $23,000 in ransom to unlock dozens of the County's online applications, County Manager Dena Diorio announced Wednesday.
"I am confident that our backup data is secure and we have the resources to fix this situation ourselves," Diorio said in a release. "It will take time, but with patience and hard work, all of our systems will be back up and running as soon as possible."
During a press conference Wednesday, Diorio reiterated that no personal information of county workers or customers was compromised by the hackers, which has affected 48 of 500 servers. The hackers, which are believed to be from either Iran or Ukraine, told Mecklenburg County they had until 1 p.m. Wednesday to pay a ransom of 2 Bitcoin, or $23,000.
Diorio said that although the deadline passed, there was still no decision whether or not to meet the demands. She also denied reports that the hackers were asking for a greater ransom than the $23,000 that was reported Tuesday.
Ransomware being used in Mecklenburg County computers is new. It’s called LockCrypt. County believes hackers are either from Iran or Ukraine— Tanya Mendis (@tanyamendis) December 6, 2017
A third-party cyber security firm hired by Mecklenburg County contacted the hackers and learned the ransomware used is a new strain called “LockCrypt.” Diorio said the process to get all of the county’s systems back to full functionality could take several days.
“If we don’t pay, we have to rebuild our applications from scratch, and that will take even longer,” Diorio explained. “The bottom line is that regardless of what direction we take or we pay or we don’t pay, this situation will be resolved in days, not hours.”
“It was going to take almost as long to fix the system after paying the ransom as it does to fix it ourselves,” she said. “And there was no guarantee that paying the criminals was a sure fix.”
Diorio thanked the county’s IT staff, as well as Bank of America, Governor Roy Cooper, the FBI, Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security for offering their assistance and support.
“We are again up and running, we are slower, but we are running,” she said.
Mecklenburg County officials said fixing the problem will require using backup data available prior to the incident to rebuild the applications from scratch. Affected systems will be prioritized with those affecting Health and Human Services, the court system and Land Use and Environment Services first.
Several Mecklenburg County services are affected, including the following:
- Human Resources: Applicants cannot apply for vacant positions.
- Tax records and payment information cannot be accessed online or by telephone
- All online tax office services, including online payments, are not available.
- Tax payments made by mail will not be posted until the tax systems are available.
- Any tax payments received by mail or in person will be posted in the order received, resulting in a delay in checks being cashed.
- Real estate and personal property tax payments can be made in person at Walton Plaza if the taxpayer presents the bill with payment. County workers are unable to look up bills for taxpayers to pay.
- All tax payments must be made with a check, money order, or cash. Credit and debit card payments cannot be accepted.
- Online park reservations are down.
Mecklenburg County residents are urged to call Mecklenburg County offices to make sure the service they need is available and there are no special instructions.
Residents can also access the following services via phone:
Medicaid Transportation: 704-336-4547
Safe Alliance Domestic Violence Hotline: 704-332-2513