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Florida city pays almost $500,000 in ransom, following IT hack

Lake City is the second city in weeks to pay out following a ransomware attack.

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The City of Lake City in Florida, US, has agreed to pay 42 bitcoin (around $460,000/ €408,000) in ransom, following a malware attack known as a ‘Triple Threat’.

On June 10, many of Lake City’s systems, such as telephones and emails, were rendered inoperable. Reports say that it has since been determined that an employee downloaded an infected document received via email which set off a chain of events involving multiple Trojans.

Following the realisation of the attack, City networks were isolated and disconnected and City IT staff, along with a third-party vendor, began recovery efforts. However, many systems were determined to be unrecoverable.

Ransom

A week after the attack, the City received a ransom request from the attacker. Lake City officials submitted the request to the Florida League of Cities, its insurance provider, and following a negotiation, the League agreed to pay 42 bitcoin, which was approved by the City Council.

The City said it believed paying the ransom to retrieve the key from the attacker would be more cost-effective than continuing with self-recovery efforts.

Lake City is responsible for $10,000, due to its insurance policy. The City said it believed paying the ransom to retrieve the key from the attacker would be more cost-effective than continuing with self-recovery efforts.

On payment of the ransom, the hacker provided a decryption key. City staff continue to work to resolve the situation and law enforcement is also investigating the hack.

“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,” said City Manager Joe Helfenberger. “If this process works it would save the City substantially in both time and money.”

It is not clear how long it will take to bring all systems fully back online, but IT staff say they are optimistic for a full recovery.

Reports also say that Lake City’s IT director has been fired following the attack.

Growing trend

Two weeks ago, leaders of Riviera Beach, Florida, voted to pay almost $600,000 (€532,000/65 bitcoin) in ransom to hackers who had paralysed the city’s computer systems.

Larger cities, such as Baltimore and Atlanta, have refused to pay hacker ransomware requests but both cities have noted that the cyber-attacks will ultimately cost them millions.

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