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This article was published on June 26, 2019

Bitcoin ransomers claim second victory as Florida town pays $500,000

Another town has buckled!

Bitcoin ransomers claim second victory as Florida town pays $500,000
Yessi Bello Perez
Story by

Yessi Bello Perez

Former Senior Writer, Growth Quarters

A second town in Florida has paid over $500,000 in Bitcoin to hackers following a ransomware attack.

Officials in Lake City paid the hackers after their computer systems were down for two weeks. IT staff are thought to have disconnected their computers within minutes of the attack beginning, but their efforts proved too little, too late.

As a result of the attack, employees lost access to email accounts and citizens were unable to make municipal payments online. 

The hackers contacted the town’s insurer and negotiated a payment of 42BTC ($500,000), with officials claiming that paying the amount was the best way of regaining access to computer systems. 

“I would have never dreamed this could have happened, especially in a small town like this,” mayor Stephen Witt told local reporters.

The insurance company will cover the bulk of the ransom payment, but $10,000 will be incurred by taxpayers, the mayor said.

Lake City has become the second city to fall victim to such scams in recent weeks.

Just recently, another Florida city, Riviera Beach, paid $600,000 in Bitcoin after criminals took over its computer system in a ransomware attack. 

In this instance, hackers infected email and emergency response systems, forcing staff to resort to good, old-fashioned, paper for some tasks.

Coveware’s latest report found that payments made to ransomware attackers increased by almost 90 percent in Q1 2019, when compared to the previous quarter. In fact, during Q1, the average daily ransom being paid to attackers rose to $12,762 from $6,733 in Q4 2018.

But not everyone pays up. Earlier this month, another ransomware attack crippled Baltimore City’s computer systems. At the time, the mayor refused to pay the ransom, which was around $76,000 worth of Bitcoin, but estimates suggest the attack has gone on to cost taxpayers around $18 million.

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