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Florida Resort City to Pay $600,000 in Bitcoin Ransom to Hackers for Stolen Data

TL;DR: Riviera Beach, Florida’s city council met earlier this week and agreed to let its insurance carrier pay a 65 bitcoin core (BTC) ransom, more than half a million dollars, in order to recover stolen data from hackers and hopefully get its beleaguered computer system back online. 

Florida Resort City to Pay $600,000 in Bitcoin Ransom to Hackers

The resort town just outside Miami is known for its beaches and great weather. It’s also now known for its response to hackers, either viewed as savvy or impotent capitulation depending on the observer. Local media reported, “Riviera Beach city leaders agreed earlier this week to pay a ransom to help get the city’s computer system back online. At a special council meeting on Monday night, the council voted unanimously to authorize the city’s insurance carrier to pay a 65 Bitcoin ransom to recover the city’s data which has been encrypted.” The vote was unanimous.

Holding up entire city departments is not unusual in this regard, as CoinSpice documented. Hackers, in the case of Baltimore for example, were able to tie up the city in knots, hampering access to services and toying with its fragile real estate market, and “only” asked for about $100,000 in BTC ransom. Things got so bad after leaders refused to pay the ransom, hackers began taunting the mayor on social media and ultimately cost Baltimore nearly $18 million as a result.

Florida Resort City to Pay $600,000 in Bitcoin Ransom to Hackers for Stolen Data

It appears Riviera Beach officials have gotten the message. “City leaders say paying the ransom, which equates to about $600,000, will hopefully return the computer system to be fully operational. In May, the city reported what it called a systemwide cyber intrusion that took down the computer system, saying ‘someone clicked on an email,” a local television news station explained. This, after only weeks ago the city spent “almost $1 million to fix and replace compromised computer equipment.”

Similar to the Baltimore fiasco, basic computer and internet security literacy were lacking in city employees, as at least one “clicked on an email,” which usually means some kind of phishing scheme leading to malware. City emails, personal records, vendors’ payments, and even 911 emergency calls were all impacted. Working with outside security consultants, the city was advised to pay the ransom with implicit understanding little future good may come of the move, … and also against official FBI admonishing of the practice. Interestingly, in nearly all cases hackers do indeed decrypt and release data after ransoms are paid.

DISCLOSURE: The author holds cryptocurrency as part of his financial portfolio, including BCH. 

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