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26 Jun, 2019 16:59

Florida cities pay out $1mn in bitcoin to ransomware hackers

Florida cities pay out $1mn in bitcoin to ransomware hackers

A Florida city has paid almost $500,000 to hackers after a ransomware attack, marking the second such payout in less than two weeks and bringing the total recent bitcoin payment by cities in the state to over $1 million.

Officials in Lake City agreed to pay the hackers to regain control of their computer systems, which had been down for two weeks, after talking with the FBI and the city’s insurance company. 

The cyber-attack was similar to one on the Palm Beach suburb of Riviera Beach, which paid hackers $600,000 to release their systems. The Lake City incident reportedly started with a City Hall employee opening an email link.

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IT workers disconnected staff computers within minutes of the launch but it was already too late. Workers were unable to access important files or email accounts, and members of the public were unable to make city payments online. 

The town’s insurer was contacted by the hackers, and eventually agreed to paying 42 bitcoins ($460,000). While insurance will cover the majority of the payment, tax payers will pick up about $10,000 of the tab.

“I would have never dreamed this could have happened, especially in a small town like this,” Mayor Stephen Witt told local media.

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