Hackers dish out expensive lesson for SC county

On Dec. 6, local government officials in Mecklenburg County, N.C., got a wake-up call regarding just how reliant they are on computers and networks of them.

That day, computer hackers mounted a cyberattack on the county’s computers, which serve one of the most densely populated regions of the state. The hackers, believed to be located in Iran or Ukraine, demanded $23,000 in exchange for undoing the damage they inflicted.

County officials said no to that, but at a cost. For a time, county government operations were slowed drastically. It got to the point that the tax office had to turn away electronic payments, building inspectors reverted to paper records and county jailers had to process inmates by hand.

It all began when a county employee opened an email attachment, sending malware into the county’s digital system.

Though people should know better than to open anything sent to them under even remotely suspicious circumstances, such errors will occur.

It may be that Mecklenburg County will spend more than $23,000 repairing the damage. Still, officials were right to reject what amounted to a ransom demand.

The digital disaster there should serve as a warning to local officials in our area to redouble cyber-security efforts.