Another Florida city pays hackers over ransomware attack

In the last week, hackers have made more than $1 million in ransomware payments out of Florida.

Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
Alfred Ng
2 min read
Padlock and chain on a cyclone fence gate.

Lake City, Florida, will pay $460,000 to unlock its computers after suffering a ransomware attack for over two weeks.

Angela Lang/CNET

Lake City isn't the first local government to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars to hackers over ransomware, and it's not likely to be the last. The northern Florida city said Tuesday that it would be paying hackers up to $460,000 in bitcoin to recover its computer systems. 

This comes days after Riviera Beach, a Florida city more than 300 miles away, announced that it would be paying hackers up to $600,000 to recover from a ransomware attack

Lake City's computer systems had been down for at least two weeks, as malware seeped through the local government's network and locked down computers, holding them hostage unless officials paid the price. The city first disclosed the attack on June 10, noting that all city emails were down, as were landline phones.

The city's 65,000 residents weren't able to pay their water and electric bills online, or get building permits. Police and fire services were not affected, officials said.

"The biggest concern for the public at this moment is the lack of email communication, and we hope to have alternate email contacts available shortly," city manager Joe Helfenberger said in a statement.

Watch this: How to get your Instagram account back from hackers (The 3:59, Ep. 572)

Lake City's police said it was investigating the hackers behind the attack. The payment will come through the city's insurance company, which will cover the entire ransom except for $10,000, CBS 47 Action News Jax reported. (Note: CBS is the parent company of CNET.)

At least 170 US state and local governments have been hit with ransomware attacks since 2013, accorded to a Recorded Future report. There's a debate over whether ransomware victims should pay hackers, and law enforcement agencies recommend against it. The Washington Post's editorial board published an op-ed on Monday recommending a federal law making it illegal to pay ransomware. 

But analysts at Forrester Research suggested that paying ransomware could be considered a valid recovery option, especially as these attacks ramp up and cities have no other way of solving the issues.