CMS falls victim to cyber attack; payroll accounts of six employees hacked

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools is the latest victim of a cyber attack.

At least six employees fell for a phishing scheme, according to district officials, who detected fraudulent payroll activity on Sept. 28. Hackers obtained passwords and login information and used that to steal more than $30,000 in a wire fraud scheme, according to police records.

"If they get access to HR resources, payroll routing information to the recipient's bank, in theory, they can get in there, they can actually change user names and passwords," said cyber expert Tom Jelneck. "And reroute those direct deposit funds directly into their own criminal bank accounts."

"One account is too many," a district statement read. "This incident has the full attention of staff in CMS Payroll, HR and Technology in assisting our employees in safeguarding their personal information and to increase security measures where possible."

District officials say there are already a "range of data security protections and measures" already in place that are updated as needed. 

Last year, Mecklenburg County and Charlotte Housing Authority suffered similar security breaches. Jelneck says more cyber security training is needed.

"They do their homework," said Jelneck, referring to the increasingly sophisticated, personalized phishing scams. "They make these phishing emails look so authentic and so real as an employee you can't really tell the difference."

"It's really easy to fall prey to this," he said. 

Police and district officials are investigating.