Business

Derek Tonin

Florida town pays ransom to end malware attack

A town in Florida is quickly learning about crypto ransomware attacks, and unfortunately for them, they’re learning the hard way. Riviera Beach’s City Council has voted to pay 65 SegWitCoins (BTC), equivalent to $633,000 at current prices, to end an attack against their city services.

The Palm Beach Post reports the city council voted unanimously to pay the ransom on June 17. So sick of the attack on the services, the vote was made after only 2 minutes of discussion; remarkable, as the 65 BTC ransom represents a healthy part of the budget.

The attack began when someone in the police department opened an infected email on May 29. Since then, the city’s email and computer systems, including police, finance and water filtration systems, have been offline.

To help investigate the attack, the FBI, Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security have been called in. The investigators would not tell the city what to do either way with the demand for ransom, but they ultimately decided to pay up in the hopes that the attackers would hold up their end of the bargain and allow them to unlock the systems. Riviera Beach Council Chairwoman KaShamba Miller-Anderson said “It’s a risk. Those were the two options: Either do it or don’t.”

This comes a few weeks after the council also voted to spend $941,00 to update their hardware on June 4. That’s over $600,000 more than they had intended to spend, but the malware proved that their systems needed a more comprehensive upgrade.

This has been a learning experience for the city. “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,” Miller-Anderson said. “Every day I’m learning how this even operates, because it just sounds so far fetched to me.”

These type of attacks are becoming much more common, and businesses and governments are learning that if they don’t install the right security systems, and practice smart computer habits, they will be at risk. Many companies are opting to simply pay the ransom, as Riviera City has opted to do, as a recent report indicates that ransom payments are up in 2019.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as SegWitCoin BTC coins. Altcoins, which value privacy, anonymity, and distance from government intervention, are referenced as dark coins.

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