Bitcoin Ransoms Heat Up As Second City in Florida Falls Prey to Hackers
The second city in Florida has fallen victim to ransom-seeking hackers in a matter of weeks. Officials in Lake City have paid hackers $460,000 in Bitcoin to regain control of their computer systems after IT staff discovered that it was down on June 10th, cutting off access to emails and telephones.
On May 29th, 300 miles south, at the police department of Riviera Beach, Florida, staff realized that their systems were down due to a vicious malware attack. They paid $600,000 in Bitcoin to retrieve access to frozen documents and to get back online.
In Lake City, officials paid 42 BTC worth roughly half a million dollars in exchange for a decryption key from the attacker, reports First Coast News.
City Manager Joe Helfenberger says the IT team was in the midst of doing their own data recovery when they were intercepted by the hacker who demanded Bitcoin.
Helfenberger says he believes it’s the cheapest alternative for Lake City, which has an estimated 12,285 residents.
“Based on the advice of the vendors, the purchase provided a mechanism to the City to retrieve the City’s files and data, which had been encrypted, and hopefully return the City’s IT system to being fully operational. If this process works it would save the City substantially in both time and money.”
While the FBI, Homeland Security and U.S. Secret Service are investigating the Florida attacks, and while Helfenberger says they’re conducting a forensic audit, there’s no guarantee that they’ll make a full data retrieval.
The hack reportedly affects 16 terabytes of data, enough to paralyze its network, prompting Lake City’s insurance provider Florida League of Cities to pay the Bitcoin ransom on June 25th.
Earlier this month, government officials in Baltimore who refused to pay a 13 BTC ransom worth roughly $100,000 to unfreeze its hacked computer system ended up spending $18 million to revive its operations.