Horry County pays nearly $10k to ‘ransomware’ hackers

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Horry County Schools paid nearly $10,000 to hackers who attacked the district’s network, district spokesperson Teal Harding confirmed on Monday.

The hackers locked files across the district’s network in February and required a ransom to unlock them. Similar attacks, with a virus known as ransomware, have hit networks across the country.

Executive Director of Technology Charles Hucks, speaking Monday at a district technology committee meeting, said no data was stolen. He said previously the virus likely entered the district’s system through at outdated server.

The attack affected systems across through the district, including payments for school lunches. Hucks said most systems are back to normal, but some servers in the technology department still need to be fixed.

District officials haven’t given specifics of what will stop another attack, but they said new security measures have been implemented.

Horry County school board member Ray Winters suggested the district use “pinhole testing” to reveal network vulnerabilities.

The district is already using a local security firm to analyze its network traffic and look for existing problems. It plans to turn over a copy of the server where the attack likely started to the firm and the FBI.

Investigators likely won’t find out who was behind the attack. The hackers demanded that the district pay though Bitcoin, an online currency that is essentially untraceable. It’s also volatile, with wild fluctuations in value, so the district ended up paying more than expected to get access to locked files.

District officials haven’t set a policy of when the county will pay hackers if ever there is a repeat occurance.

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