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Florida City Pays out Bitcoin Ransom to Hackers

In Florida, Riviera Beach’s city council has been forced to pay out a ransom of USD 600,000 in Bitcoin to hackers who targeted its computer systems.

With email and 911 dispatches affected by the attack in May, River Beach City Council voted to pay off the hackers in order to protect their systems.

Although Bitcoin is rarely used as ransom payment for such cyberattacks, they are costing the US millions of dollars, according to the US Department of Homeland Security, with “costly and destructive” malware being used by hackers.

The department claims that ransomware has now become the fastest developing malware threat to individuals and to organizations. Recently, attacks have targeted airports and ports such as Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and San Diego Port where flight information systems and computers were affected. Hospitals have also been targeted and also city government offices in Atlanta and New Jersey.

The Attack at Rivera beach, 50 miles north of Fort Lauderdale, began when a Police Department worker opened a malware-infected email attachment, which alerted the local authorities to what was happening. The malware infection then spread through the city’s computer systems resulting in the council spending USD 1 million on new computers.

A New Times Report reported that the hacker ransom was to be paid in Bitcoin with the attackers failing to guarantee that they would cease the attack upon receiving the funds.

A council in Baltimore is still picking up the pieces after being paralyzed by a cyber attack that froze a large chunk of its computer network, jamming emails and bill payments. Last week, many city employees were still without email, and repairs are likely to take months. The attack has cost the city over USD 18 million to date after Baltimore refused to pay the BTC 13 (USD 76,000 at the time) ransom.

Tyler Moore, a University of Tulsa cybersecurity professor argues that “attackers have found a playbook that is working” and will target small government departments who are willing to pay.


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