Recently, the city council voted to pay more than $600,000 to a hacking group to regain access to data that had been locked and encrypted via ransomware nearly a month ago. That is in addition to the $941,000 the city will be paying for new computers.
An investigation into the hack revealed that the trouble began when a Riviera Beach police department employee opened an email from an unrecognized, un-trusted sender. That’s all it took to bring the entire city government network to its knees. Since May 29th, all city services have been suspended except for 911 services, which have been able to continue in limited fashion.
The city council didn’t initially plan to pay the hackers off. Their first move was to vote to spend the money to get new computers and rebuild their IT infrastructure. Since that time, however, the city’s IT staff has been unable to decrypt the files on their own. In light of the lack of progress, the city council reconvened and voted 5-0 to pay 65 Bitcoins to the hackers (which amounts to a little over $600,00 USD at the time this piece was written).
Riviera Beach, a suburb north of Palm Beach, Florida, isn’t the only local government to fall victim to hacking groups or ransomware attacks. Earlier this year, officials in Jackson County, Georgia paid more than $400,000 to regain access to their files. To date, the highest ransom paid to hackers employing this tactic was $1.14 million USD, paid by South Korean web hosting firm Internet Nayana.
Last year was a record-setting year for the number of successful hacks. This year is on track to beat it by a wide margin. Your company could be next.