NEWTON, N.C. -- Catawba County announced hackers made their way into its government payroll system in October, which affected the personal data of 187 county employees.

County leaders said no other systems were affected, including those holding data of private citizens.

"I view this as more common than we wish it were," Mary Furtado, assistant county manager, said. "Then that shifts us into viewing this as a good opportunity to test the strengths of our system."

Furtado's information was among those affected.

She said the county first noticed suspicious activity in its system back in October.

A forensic investigation revealed a county worker clicked on an email attachment infested with malware, which made its way into the payroll system.

It's the third high-profile cyber attack in the Charlotte region in a three-month span.

The first happened back in December when hackers took 48 Mecklenburg County servers hostage and demanded $23,000 in Bitcoin, which the county refused to pay.

A month later, Chester County Schools detected ransomware in its system, but administrators said nothing was taken.

All 187 affected Catawba County employees will receive two years of free credit monitoring while every other employee with information in the system will receive one year of free monitoring thanks to the county's cyber attack insurance policy.

"A couple years ago, we had the foresight to anticipate security advances much more quickly than our staff's ability to keep up with it," Furtado said.

The county only has to pay a $50,000 deductible; without insurance, Furtado said the county would've paid hundreds of thousands of dollars.