The city of Riviera Beach, Florida, has agreed to pay 65 Bitcoins, worth the equivalent of roughly $592,000, to hackers who have seized control of the city government's computer system.
On May 29, a city employee working in the police department opened an email that contained ransomware. This allowed hackers to gain control of the entire system and encrypt it.
According to WPEC-TV, the town's police and fire departments were forced to write down hundreds of 911 calls a day by hand. In addition, email and phone services were shut down, police had to use paper tickets, and direct deposit for city employees failed.
Riviera Beach interim IT director Justin Williams told the Sun-Sentinelthat it will cost $1 million to fix and update the city's computer network.
On Monday, the city commissioners voted unanimously to pay the ransom and hope that the hackers returned the system to working order.
Riviera Beach Council Chairwoman KaShamba Miller-Anderson admitted that this decision came with risk, but told the Palm Beach Post, "Those were the two options: Either do it or don't."
When Palm Springs, Florida, paid a ransom to hackers in 2018, two years worth of city data was still permanently lost. The entire vote on the ransom lasted only two minutes, and the commissioners reportedly did not debate the topic before voting and moving to the next agenda item.
The city's insurance company helped to negotiate the ransom amount for the city. It will also pay the ransom amount, and around $300,000 of the cost of updating the city's computers.
The FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and the Secret Service will continue to investigate this hack and try to identify the culprits. Riviera Beach has a population of 34,093 residents.