Florida City Agrees to Pay Hackers’ Bitcoin Ransom
City Held Hostage Decides to Pay Hackers’ Bitcoin Ransom
By Timothy Nerozzi
June 23, 2019
CITY, Florida — has officially announced that it will pay a hefty ransom to hackers who have taken control of the city’s computer systems.
Riviera Beach, a suburb of Palm Beach, FL, was digitally attacked two weeks ago by anonymous hackers who targeted municipal IT infrastructure. The extorters previously requested a payment of 65 Bitcoin – approximately $600,000 dollars as of the demand.
Riviera Beach has announced their intention to pay the requested amount. The city’s insurance provider will cover the cost of the crypto-currency payment.
The situation began after a city employee opened a malicious email on a government network. Inside the email was a piece of ransomware.
Ransomware, a form of computer virus that takes control of data systems or renders them unusable, is a growing online threat around the world. The negative effects can typically only be undone by the coder of the virus, usually after financial gain – hence the term “ransom.”
“I Don’t understand why these attacks aren’t getting more attention & generating more concern,” said Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) in a media statement. “I am working on ideas to help local [governments] protect against this.”
The frozen systems have inhibited city employees and complicated EMS service operations. City emails were locked and no longer accessible by city employees. 911 dispatchers were also no longer able to log calls.
City officials have slowly managed to regain parts of the city’s digital infrastructure, but vast swaths of data were not backed up and are irreplaceable.
Due to the nature of the crime, officials are skeptical – there is no guarantee that the hackers will relinquish control of the network and the stolen data after receiving payment.
Payment is to be made in Bitcoin, the world’s most popular and frequently traded cryptocurrency. Bitcoin is decentralized and untraceable. The anonymous and decentralized nature of Bitcoin has made it a go-to for illicit transactions like the Riviera Beach ransom. After the $600,000 is sent, it will be nearly impossible for investigators to follow the money.
In an official document on preventing and dealing with ransomware, the FBI said that the United States Government “does not encourage paying a ransom to criminal actors.”
Cyber attacks often originate from outside of the country, making tracing, apprehending, and punishing attackers difficult.
Earlier this year, Baltimore refused to pay hackers the comparatively small ransom of $76,000 after a similar attack. The ordeal ended up costing Baltimore millions of dollars in computer infrastructure and security.