Florida’s Atlantic coast is a destination for millions of visitors each year. One visitor is costing a coastal city a pretty penny. Riviera Beach, a small city just north of West Palm Beach, has been hit with a major ransomware attack. Today, we’ll tell you how it came to be that the small beach city would make dubious history by paying what is the largest ransomware payout in the short history of these attacks.
Inundated with ransomware for the past three weeks after one city employee clicked on a malicious link, the Riviera Beach’s city council voted unanimously to pay the 65 Bitcoin price tag to get their systems and data unencrypted. This was after they had already voted to spend almost $1 million to buy all new hardware. The city council believed that after the situations that have played out in other municipalities--where millions of dollars were spent avoiding ransomware payments--that their best recourse to recover their data was to pay the hacker’s demands.
The problems started almost immediately after a city employee fell for a phishing email. The city email system was unavailable, and its 911 dispatchers didn’t have access to computing systems that are necessary for prompt emergency response. This led to large sections of the city’s computing infrastructure becoming unavailable.
Previous instances where ransomware victimized municipal computing infrastructure, like SamSam attacks in Atlanta, GA; Newark, NJ; and Sarasota, FL, had been so devastating to the workings of their local governments that Riviera Beach’s council had plenty of information to make their decision by. The FBI, The Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Secret Service are all investigating the Riviera Beach attack, but for now, no answers are available.
Typically, it is advised that ransomware victims do not pay the ransom, since it provides the experience and resources to hackers to continue to conduct acts of cybercrime; and, because there is no guarantee that hackers will stay true to their word and decrypt the files once the ransom has been paid.
Ransomware is a growing problem for municipalities and businesses, alike. For more information about ransomware, and the litany of threats facing your network each day, subscribe to our blog.