It turns out that hackers are a lot like retirees. When they’re looking for an easier life, they go to Florida.
Lake City, a city of about 12,000 people between Tallahassee and Jacksonville, on Tuesday agreed to pay ransomware hackers 42 bitcoins, the equivalent $490,421, to unlock phone and email systems following a cyberattack, according to the Gainesville Sun. An insurer is paying most of that, with the city kicking in $10,000, the newspaper reported.
Lake City’s news follows similar actions by the government of Riviera Beach, on the state’s Atlantic coast, which agreed last week to pay roughly $600,000 to recover. City leaders throughout the U.S. undoubtedly took notice of that case as well as the aftermath of the May ransomware attack in Baltimore, which knocked digital services offline. It cost taxpayers roughly $18 million after lawmakers declined to pay a ransom once worth roughly $104,000.
While many businesses hit with ransomware quietly pay the digital extortion fee, federal authorities advise victims not to meet criminals’ demands.
Ransomware infected Lake City systems on June 10, the Gainesville Sun reported. City Supervisor Mike Lee said the city disconnected its networks within 10 minutes, but it was still unable to access its email system. Phones went down for a day, but emergency calls were rerouted without interruption.
Even after the ransomware payment, it’s not clear when Lake City’s communication systems will be restored.
Publicly acknowledged ransomware attacks against state and local governments are on the rise, according to research published last month by the security firm Recorded Future. They were up by 39 percent last year, and the company found a total of 169 attacks between 2013 and last month.
“The good news is that city and state governments are actually less likely (overall) to pay the ransom than other industries,” Alan Liska, the author of that report, said in a tweet Wednesday. “It’s just that when they do, it makes outsize news.”