Theresa Payton has worked on the leading edge of cybersecurity throughout her career. She spent close to three years as the chief information officer for the White House.
Now her company, Fortalice Solutions, with offices in Washington, D.C. and Charlotte is helping Mecklenburg County after cybercriminals encrypted large chunks of online county data and demanded ransom money that the county didn't pay.
"Most clients do not pay and most clients do not come forward and tell their customers because they don't have to," Payton said.
Payton said Mecklenburg County has been extremely transparent about the cyber intrusion and is working around the clock to bring services back online for county residents.
"What I can tell you about the county and what I know about the team there, (is that) they're dedicated. They're hardworking. They're really smart and this is not a dereliction of duty," Payton said.
Payton acknowledged restoring the servers is time-consuming process.
"In a case like this, it can take hours, days. You could be into weeks for the systems that are considered less important," Payton said.
New international agreements need to be signed so that more cybercriminals are prosecuted, she said. Her advice for other government agencies and companies is to practice their response to a digital disaster.
"This crime, unfortunately, is here to stay because they're getting away with it. If people don't pay, (they) just move on to the next organization. Someone will pay," Payton said.
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