Horry County Schools to pay hackers’ ransom

Horry County Schools to pay hackers’ ransom

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) -  The Horry County School District plans to pay cyber hackers the ransom to get their data back after it was infected with a computer virus last week.

According to Teal Britton, district spokesperson, administrators made the decision to pay the ransom, that could range from $7,000 to $8,500, the final price will depend on how much data the district wants back.

"We are authorized to pay, but we are still trying to establish a means to pay, but at the same time we are also working to restore information, back up," said Britton.

Britton said the payment has to be made by Bitcoin, a system she said the district is not familiar with. She added the bitcoin takes about three days to setup, and once it's established, only a limited amount per transaction is permitted.

On February 8, the district became infected with the ransomware. The virus uses an encryption code to lock data, hackers then want the victim to pay money to get a key to unlock that data.  Britton said the virus keeps you from your own information, it does not steal information.

Greg Whinnie, owner of True Blue Computers in Myrtle Beach said he has seen several customers with the ransomware on their computers. Whinnie said the virus can come from re-directs, emails, even social media.

"It's getting more popular, they are realizing money is to be made this way," said Whinnie. "We've seen businesses go out of business by losing their data."

Britton said in the grand scheme of things, $8,500 is not a lot of money compared to what the district could stand to lose.

"When you have data information programs intellectual property that is at stake that costs way much more than $8,500 to create, when you look at the number of hours, we have people that are working 20-hour days just to restore information, we weigh in what that is going to cost, $8,500 starts to pale," explained Britton.

State and federal investigators have been notified, but catching a cyber criminal is difficult. "Most of these things are coming from different countries, it is hard to track them," said Whinnie.

WMBF News asked Britton if the district pays the ransom do they believe it will make them a target for more hackers, Britton said, "It's criminal but I don't think we are any more vulnerable than anyone else, we are certainly looking at ways to additional layers of internet security."

Charles Hucks, Executive Director HCS Technology said they are looking closely at all of the different layers of protection that can add to tighten security, they are also considering contracting external security monitoring services.  [if !supportLineBreakNewLine]

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