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Cities Held Hostage — A Brave New World

by Erik Briceno

In the course of a single week, three cities in Florida were struck with three separate ransomware attacks. At the time of writing this, two of the three gave in to the ransom demands and the third is still considering it. Almost immediately following these incidents in Florida, Georgia’s state court system was also hit. This was the second time this year for Georgia, following an event which completely crippled Atlanta’s IT network. Officials paid off the attackers with a hefty $400,000 ransom payment, and it is currently unknown if Georgia will be paying the ransom again this time.

Each of these attacks and capitulations have occurred within a worrisome and remarkably short period of time. It’s also worth noting that all of these events take place merely weeks after the announcement of a ransomware attack on Baltimore — an attack that cost the city $18.2 million to recover from. Here is a breakdown of each one as they happened.

Ransomware Attack on Riviera Beach, Florida

The Riviera Beach attack began on May 29, 2019, after a police department employee opened an infected email attachment. All the city’s online systems — including email, phones, as well as water utility pump stations — were brought completely down. Utility payments could not be accepted other than in person or by regular mail, and only by check or cash. On June 4, 2019, the city authorized spending more than $900,000 to buy new computer hardware. Notice of the attack was officially made public on June 5. The city agreed to pay nearly $600,000 to the hackers who paralyzed its computer systems, and at the time of writing, there are no guarantees that Riviera Beach’s records will be returned once the ransom is paid.

Ransomware Attack on Lake City, Florida

In the same week as Riviera Beach, Lake City suffered a catastrophic malware infection which the city described as a “triple threat” — an attack that is made up of three separate parts. Once again, it was caused by a single employee opening a document attached to an email. The document contained the TrickBot trojan, which later downloaded the Emotet trojan, and later, the Ryuk ransomware — thus completing the triple-threat design. Despite the city’s IT staff disconnecting impacted systems within 10 minutes of detecting the attack, the ransomware infected almost all its computer systems with the exception of the police and fire departments, which ran on a separate network. Lake City government was entirely crippled for two weeks. A ransom demand was made a week after the infection, with hackers reaching out to the city’s insurance provider. The city’s insurance paid a portion of the nearly $500,000 ransom demand, with the remainder of it being shouldered by the taxpayers.

Ransomware Attack on Key Biscayne, Florida

This was another triple-threat attack that was yet again caused by someone clicking on a bad link. Key Biscayne has become another victim of the same Ryuk ransomware that infected Lake City. The “data security event” occurred on June 23, 2019,, and it is unknown at this time if city officials will be paying the ransom. Officials held a special council meeting to discuss the issue, where it was decided to spend $30,000 on hiring a data recovery firm, though it appears the city isn’t ruling out paying the hackers.

Cities Held Hostage — A Brave New WorldIf you’re noticing a pattern to these events, you’re certainly not alone. In each case, it was due to a city employee opening an email and then clicking on a link or attached document. It’s now been confirmed, in fact, that the employee responsible for having allowed the Lake City attack to occur has been officially let go. These are prime examples of how all it takes is just one simple mistake from a single employee for everything to come crashing down. Is your business prepared for this “brave new world” we’re all living in?

 

Since 1995, Manassas Park, VA-based V2 Systems has employed local systems administrators, network engineers, security consultants, help desk technicians and partnering companies to meet a wide range of clients’ IT needs, from research, to implementation, to maintenance. Concentrate on your VISION…We’ll handle the TECHNOLOGY!

 

ebriceno
About ebriceno
Erik Briceño is the owner of V2 Systems, Inc., one of Northern Virginia’s leading Information Technology Managed Service Providers. He is an inspiring leader for its employees and instrumental business partner for its customers. He is passionate about V2’s purpose, dedicated to exceeding expectations and a consummate professional not afraid of jumping in and getting his hands dirty. Prior to joining V2 Systems in 2002, Erik was a co-founder and COO of Ampcast.com, a leading provider of online resources servicing over 5,000 independent musical artists. At Ampcast.com, Erik spearheaded all aspects of corporate development, funding, strategic vision, and business development for the firm. From 1997 to 1999 Erik held the position of Acoustic Systems Engineer for Electric Boat Corporation, a leading defense contractor. In this role, Erik was responsible for the acoustic fidelity of two noise critical systems and components in the US Navy’s nuclear submarine systems. Erik holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Vanderbilt University and a Masters of Business Administration from George Mason University. When not working, you will find Erik a dedicated family man, raising two young children with his lovely wife Karen. Together, they enjoy building legos, playing baseball, skiing, riding horses, swimming, traveling, and fixing up old Mopars.
Cities Held Hostage — A Brave New World
Cities Held Hostage — A Brave New World