Florida city agrees to pay hackers $600k to get computer systems back

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A small city in Florida on Monday directed its insurance carrier to pay about $600,000 in bitcoin ransom to hackers who launched online attack and took control of its entire computer systems.

According to the Palm Beach Post, Riviera Beach City Council reached agreement with the hackers to pay them 65 bitcoin, which is equivalent to about $592,000, in order to regain full access to their network.

The ransomware attack which reportedly happened two weeks ago, paralyzed the computer system, sending all operations offline. The attack left the city council without email and phone service. Direct-deposit paychecks had to be hand-delivered instead and the police department had to change over to paper tickets for traffic citations, according to reports.

The computer systems that control city finances and water utility pump stations and testing systems also were affected.

“This whole thing is so new to me and so foreign and it’s almost where I can’t even believe that this happens but I’m learning that it’s not as uncommon as we would think it is,” Riviera Beach Council Chairwoman KaShamba Miller-Anderson said Wednesday. “Every day I’m learning how this even operates, because it just sounds so far fetched to me.”

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The city hopes the hackers will provide a decryption key — meaning there’s no guarantee that that will happen.

“It’s a risk,” Council Chairwoman KaShamba Miller-Anderson told the Palm Beach Post on Wednesday. “Those were the two options: Either do it or don’t.”

Officials believe the hack originated on May 29, when someone in the police department opened an email infected with malware.

The incident is currently being investigated by the FBI, Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security, according to reports.

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