An investigation into a ransomware attack on a North Carolina county’s computer network showed personal information posted for sale on the “dark web,” the county said.
The Chatham County network was hit on Oct. 28 with ransomware that originated in a phishing email with a malicious attachment, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Tuesday. It encrypted much of the county’s network infrastructure and associated business systems, the county announced.
County spokeswoman Kara Dudley said the hacker sent a ransom note asking for 50 bitcoins, or about $2.4 million. The county refused to pay.
County staffers are working with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and the N.C. Attorney General’s Office to identify files affected by the breach and to notify people whose personally identifiable information or personal health information may be at risk, County Manager Dan LaMontagne told the board of commissioners Monday.
The cyberattack shut down most county functions and temporarily cut off public access to services. Data also was stolen from county systems, but LaMontagne said it’s not known what specifically was taken.
The Chatham News & Record reported last week that it found sensitive files, including county employee personnel records, eviction notices and Chatham County Sheriff’s Office investigation documents, posted to the internet, including to the dark web.
There were two releases, according to the News & Record. On Nov. 4, “mostly innocuous” files were uploaded, LaMontagne told the newspaper. In January, a second upload included more sensitive data. The newspaper was able to take screenshots of a counter on the site showing the files had been viewed over 30,000 times.
Staff had to wipe and re-image the county’s servers and over 550 staff computers, LaMontagne said. Staff computers, internet, office phones and voicemail are almost recovered, and they are adding security measures and reinforcing employee training, he said.
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