Across the United States, hackers have been targeted cities through the use of ransomware. Ransomware is a malicious attack on a computer system which completely locks the user out of their computer until a “ransom” is paid (usually in bitcoins). For those who think paying the ransom will be the easiest option should be aware that there is no guarantee that, upon payment, a decryption key will be provided. What makes ransomware especially threatening is the timer that not only counts down how many days left the user has before all files are deleted but also increases the price of decryption each passing day. Ransomware attacks should not be news to residents of Maryland. A similar attack has plagued Baltimore’s city government for a while, and the price of recovery has skyrocketed to $18 million.
As of today, Lake City, Florida, another US city infected with ransomware, has decided to pay the ransom in order to regain access to their technology network. Despite Lake City’s technology department successfully disconnecting all infecting computers within a matter of minutes the virus was able to snake its way through the entire government’s network, with the police and fire departments being the exception. Lack City, Florida government officials have agreed to pay a ransom of $500,000. Upon payment, Lake City was granted a recovery key after paying the ransom, something other cities should take note of.
Baltimore and Lake City are not the only two cities to have been plagued with the attack. Other cities such as Lynn, Massachusetts, Cartersville and Jackson County, Georgia have also been faced with this serious cyber-attack. These attacks, while expensive to fix, are a wakeup call to local governments. Ransomware is often targeted and successful on outdated systems, something each of the cities listed had. In order to combat these issues, and ensure they do not happen again, regular maintenance, updates, and patches are not only necessary but required. These attacks not only cripple the state government, but they also hurt the general public.