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Second Florida town pays out $500k to ransomware hackers

Lake City and Riveria Beach combined pay out over $1 million to regain control of municipal computer systems

Map of Florida

For the second time in a week, a Florida town has been forced to pay a ransom to hackers in order to regain control of government computer systems.

It's reported that Lake City, a town located in the north of the state, has paid out almost $500,000 in bitcoin after a ransomware attack brought down most of the town's municipal email systems and landline phones.

It comes just one week after officials in Riviera Beach, a town in the south of the state, were forced to pay out $600,000 to regain control of their hacked systems.

Lake City's municipal systems had been down since 10 June after falling foul of a malware attack known as 'Tripple threat' - a ransomware program that combines three different methods of attack to target network systems.

Lake City mayor Stephen Witt told CBS on Tuesday: "I would've never dreamed this could've happened, especially in a small town like this."

Although Lake City has yet to say how the ransomware was spread to its systems, the attack on Riviera Beach was reportedly the result of an employee opening a malicious email attachment, according to the New York Times.

The virus took down all of Riviera Beach's online systems, including email and some phones, as well as water utility pump stations.

"Anything that was done online, we did not have access to," city spokeswoman Rose Anne Brown told the newspaper.

Andrea Carcano, CPO of Nozomi Networks, said the two attacks were "a testament to the growing use of ransomware attacks to target US cities".

"This is a scary reminder of the damage cybercriminals can inflict when they target critical infrastructure and government services," she said. "However, by agreeing to pay the ransom both councils are only fuelling the profitability of the ransomware industry for attackers."

In 2018, a ransomware attack on Alaskan borough Matanuska-Susitna was so severe that one of its offices had to resort to using typewriters while its systems were repaired. In May, the city of Baltimore lost control of its public services for more than two weeks after a ransomware attack crippled its government's computer systems.

Unlike Lake City and Riveria Beach, however, Baltimore officials refused to pay out. On that occasion, hackers had demanded 13 bitcoins, valued at just under $100,000 at the time, but city officials were advised by the FBI not to give funds to the hackers.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the recovery operations cost Baltimore approximately $18.2 million.

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