Ransomware Attack Hits Computer Network of North Carolina County

March 21, 2019 AT 7:40 AM

By Zachery Eanes

The entire Orange County, N.C., computer network was out of service Monday after it was attacked by a ransomware virus, causing slowdowns and service problems at key public offices such as the Register of Deeds, the sheriff’s office and the county libraries.

The source of the attack is still unknown, but it was discovered around 6 a.m. Monday, leading to the entire computer network being shut down out of precaution.

A variety of services were impacted, the county said.

The county’s Register of Deeds office could not process real estate closings or issue marriage licenses, the county’s housing department couldn’t process any vouchers and the Tax Office was unable to verify tax bills.

Additionally, the county’s Planning Department was unable to process fees or permits, and the county libraries’ public computers were out of service, among other issues.

Jim Northrup, who leads Orange County’s IT department as its chief information officer, described the attack as “an encryption virus,” a form of ransomware.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that can deny a user access to data once it has infiltrated a computer — often times the attacker will demand a ransom to have a computer restored, according to computer security company Norton. This particular ransomware attack was accompanied by a message, but Northrup declined to comment on what the message said beyond saying it had many grammatical errors.

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