Mecklenburg Co. residents receive virus from hacked county email

About 1,000 Mecklenburg County taxpayers received an email this week that contained a virus after a county email address was hacked.

County officials learned that someone infiltrated an email account in the tax assessor’s office on Tuesday and sent out a mass message with a virus attached, said Daniel Diehl, county spokesman.

Officials discovered the hack Wednesday after a Mint Hill resident reported receiving an unusual email, he said. By then, about 150 people had opened the contaminated attachment, which contained a “Trojan downloader,” a malicious program typically installed on computers through email spamming, said Curt Williams, the county’s information security manager.

The message read: “The payment has been successful. Details of the attachment.” It did not request any personal information from residents, and county officials do not believe any employees’ personnel or confidential information has been compromised, Williams said.

The last time a county email was possibly compromised was several months ago, he said.

The county has sent follow-up messages to affected residents that informs them of the virus and instructs them to delete the contaminated email without opening the attachment. Any residents who did open the attachment should activate any anti-virus software they have installed on their computers.

Officials are working to find where the virus originated. To safeguard against hackers, the county uses computer programs that detect malicious activity. A password policy requires county employees to change their passwords on a regular basis.