Officials in North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County say hackers are demanding $23,000 in ransom by early Wednesday afternoon to release multiple files they are holding hostage on the county’s servers.
The hackers gave officials until 1 p.m. to pay the ransom with 2 Bitcoin in exchange for an encryption key that would release the files.
Mecklenburg, with Charlotte as the county seat, serves more than 1 million people as the state’s most populous county.
County Manager Dena Diorio said a county employee clicked an attachment in an email that exposed the files to the hackers, WCNC-TV reported. The intrusion, in turn, caused a massive systemwide outage.
The shutdown has affected email, printing and other county applications and disrupted routine business at most county offices, WSOC-TV reported.
Diorio said Mecklenburg County officials are considering paying the ransom but are also evaluating how much it would cost to decrypt the files themselves.
“If you pay the bitcoin, there is always a risk they won’t give you the encryption key,” she said. “And they could go back for more (money).”