MIAMI — The leaders of Riviera Beach, Fla., looking weary, met quietly this week for an extraordinary vote to pay nearly $600,000 in ransom to hackers who paralyzed the city’s computer systems.
Riviera Beach, a small city of about 35,000 people just north of West Palm Beach, became the latest government to be crippled by ransomware attacks that have successfully extorted municipalities and forced them to dig into public coffers to restore their networks. A similar breach recently cost Baltimore $18 million to repair damages.
Even large cities, however, have had to pay smaller ransoms than Riviera Beach. On Monday, the City Council unanimously agreed to have its insurance carrier pay the hackers 65 Bitcoin, a hard-to-trace digital currency, amounting to about $592,000. By making the payment, the City Council hopes to regain access to data encrypted in the cyberattack three weeks ago, though there is no guarantee the hackers will release the data once payment is received.
Rose Anne Brown, a city spokeswoman, said on Wednesday that Riviera Beach was working with law enforcement, which does not typically endorse making ransom payments, and with security consultants, who sometimes do as a way for their clients to recoup years of valuable information.