Everyone knows that crime doesn’t pay, or at least that’s what we’re all led to believe. For hackers who broke into the computer systems of a Florida city a few weeks back, crime seems to be paying rather well, and the local government has agreed to pay the hefty sum of $600,000 to regain access to its own files.
As AP reports, the saga began three weeks ago when a hacker or team of hackers gained access to the government computer systems of Riviera Beach, Florida. The hackers encrypted the city’s files, holding them for ransom and demanding a huge chunk of cash. This week, the city council voted unanimously to pay the hackers in order to regain access to the files.
This is a classic case of ransomware, where a hacker gains access to a computer or computer system via some underhanded means — sometimes sketchy links in emails or malware-laced downloads — and holds the owner’s most important files for ransom. It’s a growing trend, and hackers are increasingly targeting large companies and governments who they believe will fork over huge sums of money to regain control of their files.
In the case of Riviera Beach, the city’s records weren’t the only aspects of their computer systems that were compromised. The city also reportedly had issues with its email and payment system, and even local emergency dispatchers were locked out of their computers.
The hackers, hoping to cover their tracks as best they can, demanded to be paid via cryptocurrency. In this case, $600,000 worth of bitcoin. A spokesperson for the city said that they are proceeding with the payment on the advice of consultants, but there’s still no guarantee that the city will be able to retrieve its files.
While ransomware attacks do often result in payment and then the return of file access, some hackers choose to go an even darker route and refuse to unlock the encrypted files after being paid. In some cases, the files are lost forever.