Riviera Beach, a city in Florida, has agreed to pay a $600,000 ransom to hackers who attacked its network.
This week, the City Council voted to pay the demands after coming up with no other option to meet the demands of the hackers. It seems that the hackers got access to the system when a staff member clicked on a link in an email, which uploaded malware to the network. The malware disabled the city’s email system, direct deposit payroll system and 911 dispatch system.
According to Rose Anne Brown, the city’s spokesperson, they had been working with independent security consultants who recommended that they pay the ransom. The payment is being covered by the city’s insurance. Brown said that they are relying on the advice of the consultants, even though the stance of the FBI is to not pay off the hackers.
There are many businesses and government agencies that have been hit in the US and across the world in recent years. The city of Baltimore, for instance, was asked to pay $76,000 in ransom just last month, but that city refused to pay. Atlanta and Newark were also hit with demands.
Just last year, the US government accused a programmer from North Korea of creating and attacking banks, governments, hospitals, and factories with a malware attack known as “WannaCry.” This malware affected entities in over 150 countries and the loses totaled more than $81 million.
The FBI hasn’t commented on the attack in Riviera Beach, but it did say that almost 1,500 ransomware attacks were reported in 2018, and the victims paid about $3.6 million to the hackers.
Hackers often target areas of computer systems that are vulnerable, and any organization should consistently check its systems for flaws. Additionally, it’s important to train staff about how hackers lure victims by using emails. You must teach them, for instance, not to click on any email links or open emails that look suspicious. It is also imperative that the system and its data, and even individual computers, are backed up regularly.
Most of these attacks come from foreign entities, which make them difficult to track and prosecute. Many victims just end up paying the hacker because the data is precious to them. They also might work with some type of negotiator to bring the ransom down. In almost all cases, the attackers will do what they say and allow the victims to access their data, but not all of them do. So, realize that if you are going to pay that you still might not get access to the data. Ransomware simply should not happen to your network. If all your hardware and software is up to date and you have all the necessary components and software that your specific network requires based on its size and the data you house then your defenses become a tougher target. Additionally, proper security awareness training will prevent the criminals from bypassing all those security controls and keep your network secure as it needs to be.
Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.