The problem was discovered after county employees began experiencing a county-wide computer system outage on Tuesday afternoon.
County Manager Dina Diorio first confirmed to reporters Tuesday night that county 30 servers were being held for ransom.
WSOC reporter Joe Bruno tweeted that it is unclear where the attack originated, but the hackers are in a time zone seven hours ahead of Charlotte, which would include Russian Federation, where cybercrime is frequently based.
Diorio told county commissioners in a meeting that the files were being held for ransom as the hackers were demanding 2 bitcoins, which is now worth nearly $25,000 (at the time of this article's writing).
Vice Chair Jim Puckett said that the hackers are likely to comply because it makes them look more credible in future attacks. She said the county has until 1 p.m. Wednesday to decide whether to pay ransom. He's also the author of the Judd Ryker worldwide thriller series focused on a State Department crisis manager.
At least 48 servers were hacked during the incident, Diorio said during the media briefing.
Diorio said no resident's personal information is exposed, but all of the Information Technology Services (ITS) systems in the county are shut down.
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The shutdown has affected email, printing and other county applications and disrupted routine business at most county offices, WSOC-TV reported.
"Things that we were doing electronically, we are now moving to paper", Diorio said.
The breach reportedly happened when a county employee clicked on a bad attachment in an email, exposing the files.
The Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners received an update on the outage during its meeting on Tuesday night.
Diorio is now working with a "third party forensic expert" to navigate the county's next steps. The deadline for paying the ransom is 1pm EST today. Is it actually cheaper to pay the hackers off to once again have access to critical files?
No other details have been released.