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Hackers Demand Pensacola Pay Them a $1M Ransom

After attack this week, city says it hasn't decided yet
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 13, 2019 4:55 PM CST

(Newser) – The city of Pensacola confirmed Friday that hackers seeking to extort money were responsible for crippling its computer systems earlier this week, but that officials have yet to decide whether they will pay a reported $1 million ransom. If they do fork over the money, they may have to dip into city coffers; the city in Florida's Panhandle — whose annual budget is roughly $245 million — is not insured for such an attack, the AP reports. Obtaining it in the future is "something that our risk manager will certainly be looking into,” said city spokeswoman Kaycee Lagarde. Ransomware was behind the attack that brought down the city's computer network over the weekend, Lagarde confirmed, less than a day after a Saudi aviation student killed three US sailors and wounded eight other people at a nearby naval air station. The FBI has said the attacks were not connected.

The cybersecurity blog BleepingComputer reported earlier this week that a group behind a ransomware strain known as Maze claimed responsibility for the attack and was demanding $1 million. In emails exchanged with the website, the Maze hackers claimed they had stolen documents from the city but didn't say whether they had given Pensacola a deadline to pay for them or if they had threatened to release the documents. The FBI advises not paying ransom in such cases, per Bay News 9, and the US Conference of Mayors has approved a resolution calling on cities to not pay up, saying it encourages such attacks. Six local governments in Florida have paid nearly $3 million in ransom this year. One city, Stuart, didn't pay because it had taken a basic preventive step: It had backed up its servers.

(Read more cyberattack stories.)

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