Florida city pays 600,000 USD in ransom for retrieval of data

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computer data encryption
Hackers encrypt the machines to take control of data in ransomware attacks. (Credits - PxHere)

A Florida city has agreed to pay a sum of 600,000 USD as a ransom to the hackers who breached its computer system. This is one of the many attacks worldwide meant to extort money from businesses and governments.

The Riviera Beach City Council voted unanimously for meeting the demands of the hackers as the suburb had no other option left if it wanted its records back which were encrypted by the hackers. Before this, the council had voted to spend a million dollars in buying new computers after the hackers took over the hardware system.

The hackers managed to get access to the system after an employee clicked on an email which resulted in uploading of malware. Besides the records being encrypted, there were several other problems such as a disabled email system, payments being made in cheque rather than direct deposits and 911 dispatchers not being able to enter calls in computers.   

Spokeswoman Rose Anne Brown told that the 35000 residents of the city were working with security consultants outside who recommended that the ransom be paid. However, she also added that there is no certainty that the records will be obtained back on the payment of money. Although the FBI mentions that it does not support payment to hackers but it is done by several businesses and government agencies. The city is relying on the word of the consultants. The payment will be made in the form of bitcoins. The tracing of payments can be done in case of bitcoins but the accounts of the owners cannot be identified with certainty, thus it is often used in such types of attacks.

Hacking attempts have affected several corporations and governments in the United States and also in other nations. Last year, the Government of United States indicted two Iranians for allegedly unleashing ransomware attacks against the cities of Atlanta and Newark, New Jersey. Federal prosecutors declared that the hackers received a payment of 6 million USD for it which caused damages worth of 30 million USD. A North Korean programmer was accused last year of the WannaCry attack which affected banks, factories and hospital systems in 150 nations. It is presumed that he stole 81 million USD from a bank in Bangladesh.

Attacks of such kinds often occur outside the United States which makes it difficult to prosecute the hackers. Employees of organizations have to be taught security measures such as not clicking on suspicious links or emails.

In most cases, the machines are decrypted after payment although in WannaCry attack, even after receiving money, data was not released.

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