Officers from Mecklenburg County, North Carolina were in contact with hackers, believed to be from Iran or Ukraine, and plan to decide on Wednesday night if they are paid $ 26,000 to win the release of multiple files held hostage on county servers.
County manager Dena Diorio told reporters that it could take "days, not hours" to restore the computers and return the full service, regardless of whether the county pays the ransom.
Cybernetics experts believe that hackers operated from Iran or Ukraine and infected the servers with a new strain of ransomware known as LockCrypt, he said.  An email attachment opened by a county clerk on Tuesday initiated the attack. The attachment contained a "worm" that began to encrypt county files. It also contained an email address and instructions on how to pay the ransom.
The ransomware was quickly detected and isolated, but it still affected 48 of the county's 500 servers, Diorio said. The county was "open for business" but many operations had slowed, he added. Due to a backup system, the trick did not compromise any personal information or delete any data.
Diorio said all the servers were working, but information about scheduled medical trips of about 300 patients was lost and a domestic violence hotline was sending calls directly to voice mail.
Mecklenburg, with Charlotte as the county seat, serves more than 1 million people as the most populous county in the state.
The hackers originally gave the officers until 1 pm Wednesday to pay two Bitcoin in exchange for an encryption key that would release the files.
The county faced the dilemma of paying the ransom or rebuilding the system using the backup data.
"If we do not pay, we will have to rebuild the applications from scratch and that will take even more time," said Diorio. .
Officials also weighed whether an encryption key would actually work to unlock the servers and whether they would be completely free of the ransomware.
Although the deadline passed without payment, the hackers apparently did not take any action as long as county officials communicate with them through cybersecurity experts.
During the day, however, the value of Bitcoins increased from $ 23,000 to $ 26,000.
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