BY MARK PRICE
Davidson County has been hit by hackers, causing its website to go offline. Among the sites not working are those of the sheriff’s office and the tax assessor’s office.
The city of Lexington sent out a tweet about the hack shortly after 10:30 a.m. Davidson County is about 60 miles northeast of Charlotte.
The computers had been stopped by a software virus known as ransomware, County Manager Zeb Hanner reportedly told the Lexington Dispatch.
Hanner said officials learned about the issue around 2 a.m. Friday and the hackers are asking for an undisclosed amount of bitcoin, a type of cyber currency gaining popularity, reported the Dispatch.
The Associated Press is reporting the county’s 911 is still operating, but other government offices are completing tasks manually. County workers will conduct business without the computers. County officials have contacted law enforcement and cyber security coverage on insurance to determine how to proceed, adding that there are good backups and that no data has been lost.
A similar situation happened in Mecklenburg County in December.
A foreign-based hacker used at least one government employee’s computer network login to launch a ransomware attack that knocked multiple data servers and many public services offline. It caused widespread outages across Mecklenburg County systems. The county’s “IT (information technology) Incident Response Team” first learned of the problem early in the morning on Dec. 5.
The attack came with a demand of $23,000, which county officials refused to pay, saying it would not speed up recovery time. Instead, the county said it would restore its system and applications using backup data.
Nationwide, ransomware attacks are on the rise and becoming more sophisticated, according to the FBI, which reported 2,673 complaints in 2016, up about 9 percent from the year before.
Cybercriminals sometimes demand payments in bitcoin, a digital currency, because such transactions can be difficult to trace, experts said.