Posted on June 20, 2019 at 2:45 PM
Riviera Beach City Council has agreed to pay a ransom of about $600,000 to hackers who have taken over the city’s computer systems. The attack on the city’s system affected most of the city’s operations and prompted an upgrade on the city’s computer systems.
The city’s board unanimously voted to authorize the payment of a ransom to hackers who accessed the city’s system. The hackers demanded that the ransom payment had to be made as 65 bitcoin, a hard to trace cryptocurrency, for the release of the city’s data. The value of this amount of bitcoin today would be approximately $602,000. The value of bitcoin fluctuates daily and this makes the exact amount the city may eventually pay hard to determine to the exact dollar. The payment of the ransom will be facilitated through the city’s insurer.
The attack on Riviera Beach’s system began on May 29. According to officials, a member of the police department received and opened an infected email which exposed the city’s system to the hackers. The attack crippled the city’s systems affecting emails, some phone lines and some water utility pumps. Payment of utility bills was only possible through checks and cash as the online payment systems were also affected by the attack.
The extent to which the data of Riviera Beach may have been compromised is largely unknown. Police records, for example, may have been compromised but this is yet to be ascertained. The city’s water had to be manually tested to ensure that it had not been compromised and that it was still of the required quality.
Ransomware attacks have become more prevalent worldwide as the world relies more on digital systems and the data contained in these systems becomes more valuable daily. The value of data and digital systems makes them an effective method of extortion for hackers. Private and public entities alike are falling victim to ransomware attacks. The development of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, which are hard to trace, has made it more difficult for authorities to be able to investigate and track the hackers.
Damage caused by such attacks costs cities large sums of money to repair. A similar attack on the city of Atlanta is reported to have cost the city an estimated $17 million dollars. Costs of such attacks also come in the form of data that may not be recovered in its entirety as paying the ransom does not guarantee that the hackers will return all of the data they would have accessed during the ransomware attack. The rebuilding of these databases will also cost the affected entity large amounts of money and time.
On the 4th of June, the Riviera Beach City Council approved the release of over $900,000 for the purchasing of new hardware for its departments. About 300 desktop computers and 90 laptop computers are part of the inventory the city is buying. A third of this amount is to be covered by the city’s insurer. The city had planned to upgrade their hardware in 2020 with a budget of $300,000. However, the attack has made the upgrade of the city’s computer system a matter of urgency.
The use of outdated software and hardware systems makes it easy for hackers to execute such ransomware attacks. Most city departments use hardware and software that have been in existence for many years and this exposes these departments to the possibility of being hacked easily.