Those who steal possessions or kidnap people are not the only ones making ransom demands these days.

An increasingly common type of malicious software demands payment in exchange for access to one's own data. County Administrator Tim Houle reported to the Crow Wing County Board Tuesday the county recently experienced a close encounter with this "ransomware."

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Houle said the malware encrypted county files, making them temporarily inaccessible. Normally, these malicious attacks follow up with a message seeking payment in exchange for unlocking the files.

"There are probably too many organizations that think it's cheaper to pay the ransom than it is to try to recreate the files in some other way," Houle said.

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"We have been infected by it, but the recovery from it was better than we hoped." - County Administrator Tim Houle

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In the county's case, a particularly well-timed file backup prevented staff from having to make that choice. The day before the malware hit, the targeted files were backed up in an area unaffected by the attack.

"We have a very rigorous file backup protocol," Houle said. "We have been infected by it, but the recovery from it was better than we hoped."

Houle said the county is working on ways to improve its firewall to prevent future attacks.

In other business, the county board:

Accepted the resignation of Michael Kneeland, a District 5 representative on the Crow Wing County Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Kneeland served on the commission for 30 years.

Authorized a grant agreement between the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office and the National Joint Powers Alliance. The grant will provide up to $9,000 in funding per each employee who works exclusively with the drug task force. Approved the revocations of two county roads. County roads 101 and 110 were revoked from the county system to Deerwood Township. In lieu of payment, the county highway department resurfaced the roads and will maintain them for two years.

The portion of County Road 101 within the city of Deerwood will become a city street.

Approved the final payment for work on Welton Road to Anderson Brothers Construction. The total amount paid was $87,232.25, which was nearly 6 percent below the original contract amount.

Welton Road was the subject of a petition earlier this year, with which residents requested the road be paved.

Approved the final payment to Finn Ice Inc. for crack sealing on County Highway 1. The final contract amount of $202,971 was nearly 5 percent less than the original, although it was noted in the request for board action the difference was due to the condition of a portion of the highway. Excessive cracking during the spring thaw led to that section being discluded from the contract.

Accepted the transfer of employee Aaron Larson to the sheriff's office as an administrative/technical specialist.

Approved the hiring of the following people: Cody Girdley, highway maintenance specialist; Blair Boileau, temporary program specialist in community services and Robin Roberts, senior administrative/technical specialist in the sheriff's office jail division.

Approved replacement staffing for a customer service specialist in land services and a technical support intern in information technology.