Riviera City In Florida Surrenders To Ransomware
Another U.S. city bites the dust, as Riviera, a city in Florida with a population of 6-million residents had its local government computers infected by a ransomware. City officials embarrassingly agreed to pay the ransomware authors demand, to the tune of $600,000 just to recover the city’s encrypted data. The amount is considered by the city officials as a lower cost solution, compared to the estimated $941,000 that the city needs to pay to rebuild the lost data from scratch.
The incident happened last May 29, 2019, caused by an incident when someone from Riviera Police team opened a malicious email containing ransomware. This caused the ransomware to penetrate the whole network used by the city government. It only took a few hours for the ransomware to encrypt all the Windows computers that were being used that day, only the emergency services department were able to operate in a limited fashion. City officials convened a high-level meeting to deliberate if the city government should spend $941,000 to rebuild the entire tech infrastructure of the city, but the council instead voted unanimously to just pay $600,000 worth of Bitcoins to the ransomware authors.
The trouble has been escalated given that the city government has not implemented a reliable backup system, that could have saved the city from paying hefty amounts to cybercriminals behind the ransomware. According to the report, even the City hold itself, city finance office and water pump stations are operating partially even if the computers being used are infected. It is highly embarrassing that the city just decided to surrender the possibility of its data being unencrypted by the very criminals that are behind the malware infection.
“This whole thing is so new to me and so foreign and it’s almost where I can’t even believe that this happens but I’m learning that it’s not as uncommon as we would think it is. Every day I’m learning how this even operates because it just sounds so far fetched to me,” explained KaShamba Miller-Anderson, Riviera Beach Council Charwoman.
The city itself operated under the same schedule, but many of the processes need to be done manually, like the salaries of the city government employees, which were handed over personally, instead of being deposited to the individual’s payroll bank accounts. The email system was completely shut down, while the VOIP phone service was in partial operations. The leadership believes that the city has no choice but to pay the ransom, as not only the current data that were locked down but as well as historical records of the city.
Riviera City was not the first city where its government decided to bite the bullet and pay the criminals what they were demanding. Here in Hackercombat.com, we have reported various incidents in the past about local governments which resorted to the same action, given their critical data were held, hostage. The only reliable method in order to fully recover from a ransomware infection without paying the ransomware demand is to have a reliable and secure backup infrastructure. In the age of a highly competitive cloud-storage market, it is not acceptable to run systems in production without any form of backup.