County to beef up cybersecurity after ransomware attack

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County offices are still feeling the impact of a crippling ransomware attack more than a month after hackers hit thier servers.

[Mecklenburg County files held for ransom]

Leaders are now focused on what they learned from the attack and how to prevent future cybercrimes.

They discussed the issue Thursday during their annual retreat at Central Piedmont Community College’s west Charlotte campus.

[Meck County leaders say 27 servers restored after hacking attack]

The county wants to beef up security, for example, by having a two-step verification process.

Other proposals are a little more complicated and expensive.

Leaders defiantly said “no” to hackers last year when they demanded a 2 bitcoin ransom after freezing the county's servers.

Since then, all of the servers have been restored.

Now, the focus is on making sure this doesn't happen again.

“You're happy until they think of something smarter,” vice chair Jim Puckett said. “I am glad we are paying attention to it.”

Commissioners were warned that they will eventually have to consider a significant appropriation to enhance cybersecurity.

The county IT director is proposing a cybersecurity command center, security operations training and new technology to help identify suspicious emails.

“Prepare, prepare, prepare, so you can never anticipate when the unfortunate is going to happen,” IT director Keith Gregg said.

County workers have already started seeing changes. Their passwords had to be extended, external email accounts are banned at work and non-internal emails are labeled

Commissioners said they are happy with the county's response and the leadership shown by management

“I am very proud of the county's response to it,” Commissioner at-Large Trevor Fuller said.

The county said ransomware attacks are more common than one may think. In fact, statistically, one person in the world is hit with a ransomware attack every 10 seconds.

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