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Florida City Agrees to Pay $600K to Hackers

Ransomware attack took Riviera Beach's systems offline
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 20, 2019 7:34 AM CDT
Riviera Beach, Fla. has agreed to pay $600,000 in ransom to hackers who took over its computer system.   (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

(Newser) – A Florida city has agreed to pay the equivalent of around $600,000 to hackers after becoming the latest victim of a very 21st-century crime. At a meeting Monday, the city council in Riviera Beach unanimously agreed to pay 65 Bitcoin to hackers who had paralyzed its computer system with a virus sent in an infected email attachment opened by a police department employee on May 29, the New York Times reports. The "ransomware" attack took city systems offline, forcing the police and fire departments in the city of 35,000 people to write 911 calls down on paper; the Sun Sentinel reports they take in about 280 calls daily. Utility bills had to be paid in person or by mail, with only checks or cash accepted.

The payment is being handled by the city's insurance carrier. As with similar attacks, which are increasingly common, there is no guarantee that paying the ransom will actually result in the data being released. "It's almost where I can't even believe that this happens but I'm learning that it’s not as uncommon as we would think it is," Council Chairwoman KaShamba Miller-Anderson said Wednesday, per the Palm Beach Post, which reports 50 US cities have been attacked in the last two years. "Every day I'm learning how this even operates, because it just sounds so far fetched to me." The city is planning to spend around $1 million on new computer hardware that will be less vulnerable to cyberattacks. (The most common tool used in ransomware attacks was developed by the NSA.)

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