Florida Government to Pay 65 BTC Following Ransomware Attack

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A small local government in Florida has been hit by a ransomware attack that encrypted all of the city’s systems. All of Riviera Beach’s online activities have been hit by the attack, including utility payments, email servers, phones, utility pump stations, and even the city’s official website. The hackers have demanded 65 BTC – just shy of $700,000 at the time of writing – to decrypt the files, and the city voted unanimously in favor of paying the fees.

Triggered by the Police

Usually, in these types of situations, an intern or a clerk who isn’t computer literate has usually clicked on a link or downloaded a file that was in an email. However, this time around it was in fact a city policeman who downloaded a rather dodgy email attachment. Once the attachment had been downloaded, the ransomware got to work and encrypted the entire city’s online systems. Perhaps the download was a voucher for free donuts and an IT course?

Similar Situation in Alaska

Back in November 2018, we saw a very similar situation over in Alaska. A virus named Hermes infected 27 servers and more than 170 computers, leaving the city paralyzed. Hackers wanted 3 BTC to unlock all of the servers and computers, a fee which the city agreed to pay rather quickly. Fortunately, The attack in Alaska was on a much smaller scale and cost the city a lot less money to recover from. Since the attack in Riviera Beach, the city has pledged to spend $900,000 on more sophisticated hardware to prevent this from happening again. Unfortunately, if a policeman decides to download dodgy attachments this new hardware will be rendered useless in seconds – spend the money on training staff instead.

Ransomware is Getting More Dangerous

As time goes on, hackers and scammers are developing much more sophisticated and dangerous ransomware. In early 2019, we saw a new edition of the BlackRouter ransomware in the wild. This time, its features are deadlier and can work their way through multiple layers of security and it even includes its own affiliate program. This means more people are incentivized to use it, leading to more attacks.

Fortunately, the US government will be able to watch and follow the Bitcoin with the goal of finding the hackers. Thankfully, Bitcoin is still rather public and all transactions can be followed. It might take some time, but it’s likely that the insurance providers of the city will get their money back – if the government does its job properly.