Florida city agrees to pay $500k ransom to computer hackers

A Florida city has agreed to pay a ransom demand of $500,000 (£394,000) to hackers to get their data back.

It comes less than a week after a first Florida city agreed to pay a ransom demand to hackers who took over its computer system.

The total paid by the US state’s municipalities over ransomware now stands at $1.1m (£867m).

In an emergency meeting on Monday, officials in Lake City, which has a population of just 65,000, voted to pay a ransom demand of 42 bitcoins worth nearly $500,000 (£394,000).

IT staff in Lake City reportedly disconnected staff computers within 10 minutes of the attack starting – but it was too late.

The ransomware strain infected almost all of its computer systems with the exception of the police and fire departments, which run on a separate network.

Lake City government work has been crippled for a fortnight as a result of the incident.

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Hackers contacted the city’s insurance provider a week after the infection with a ransom demand, and negotiated a ransom payment of 42 bitcoins.

Last week, the Riviera Beach city council voted unanimously to pay a ransom demand of $600,000 (£476,000) to hackers who took over its computer system.

The hackers accessed the city’s system when an employee clicked on an email link that allowed them to upload malware.

Riviera Beach agreed to pay a ransom demand of $600,000 (£476,000) to hackers
Image: Riviera Beach agreed to pay a ransom demand of $600,000 (£476,000) to hackers

As well as encrypted records, the city suffered numerous issues including a disabled email system, employees being paid by cheque rather than direct deposit, and emergency dispatchers being unable to enter calls into the computer.

The recent incidents in Florida are the latest in thousands of attacks worldwide aimed at extorting money from governments and businesses.

The FBI said on its website that it “doesn’t support” paying off hackers, but the two Florida cities are among many government agencies and businesses paying off ransom demands.

However, last month Baltimore refused to pay hackers $76,000 (£60,000) after an attack.

And last year, the US indicted two Iranians for allegedly unleashing more than 200 ransomware attacks, including against the cities of Atlanta and Newark, New Jersey.

Federal prosecutors said the men, who have not been arrested, received more than $6m (£4.76m) in payments and caused $30m (£24m) in damage to computer systems.

Source: SKY NEWS

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