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Second Florida City Pays Ransom to Cybercriminals

Days after ransomware crippled the city of about 12,000 residents, officials of Lake City agreed this week

Florida, Ransom, Cybercriminals
A laptop displays a message after being infected by ransomware as part of a worldwide cyberattack on June 27, 2017 in Geldrop, Netherlands. VOA

A second small city in Florida has agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom to cybercriminals who disabled its computer system.

Days after ransomware crippled the city of about 12,000 residents, officials of Lake City agreed this week to meet the hackers’ ransom demand: 42 Bitcoin or about $460,000.

Last week, River Bench, in Palm Beach County, paid $600,000 in Bitcoin to retrieve its data. In both cases, most of the money will be paid by insurance companies.

On Thursday, Key Biscayne, a third Florida city, said it too had been targeted by a cyberattack. But city officials said it had managed to restore most of its computer systems by late Wednesday.

Florida, Ransom, Cybercriminals
FILE – A screenshot shows a WannaCry ransomware demand, provided by cybersecurity firm Symantec, in Mountain View, California, May 15, 2017. VOA

Ransomware, a type of malicious software designed to deny access to a computer system or data until a ransom is paid, is becoming an epidemic in the public sector.

The cybersecurity firm Recorded Future reported in May that 170 city, county or state government systems have been attacked since 2013.

Ransomware attacks are not limited to small cities. Baltimore, a city of more than 600,000, has been fighting a cyber breach since May. The city refused to pay the $80,000 ransom that the hackers demanded. Instead, it has spent $18 million on data recovery.

Similarly, the city of Atlanta spent nearly $17 million after it was targeted in March 2018.

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In November, the FBI indicted two Iranian men in a computer hacking and extortion scheme that targeted cities like Atlanta and Newark, N.J., in addition to the Port of San Diego, the Colorado Department of Transportation and six health care-related organizations. The estimated losses added up to more than $30 million.

WannaCry attack

One of the largest ransomware attacks was WannaCry, which encrypted hundreds of thousands of computers in more than 150 countries in a matter of hours. It was the first time that ransomware had spread across the world in what looked like a coordinated cyberattack.

Florida, Ransom, Cybercriminals
A second small city in Florida has agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom to cybercriminals. Pixabay

The British national health care system was especially hard hit by WannaCry, which caused thousands of hospitals to go offline. The attack also affected government systems, railway networks and private companies.

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It was eventually traced to a group of hackers working for North Korea who used stolen highly classified hacking tools developed by the U.S. National Security Agency. (VOA)

Next Story

Survey Concludes Cybercriminals Topmost Source of Distrust in India

More than one in three (37 per cent) Indians plan to use or purchase cryptocurrencies within the next year, the survey warned

Cyber crime, U.S. programming
A man types on a computer keyboard in front of displayed cyber code in this illustration picture. VOA

By Vishal Gulati

Cybercriminals remain the number one source of distrust in the Internet in India where 79 per cent of people say social media companies contribute to their distrust — up from 74 per cent in 2018.

Simultaneously, 60 per cent Indians are aware of the data protection and privacy rules, a figure which is quite healthy against the global average of 44 per cent.

These were the findings released on Tuesday as part of the 2019 CIGI-Ipsos Global Survey on Internet Security and Trust.

It was conducted by Ipsos on behalf of the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), in partnership with the Internet Society (ISOC) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The CIGI-Ipsos Global Survey, now in its fifth year, is the world’s largest and most comprehensive survey of Internet security and trust, involving more than 25,000 Internet users in over 24 countries across North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region.

The survey says cybercriminals in India contribute 85 per cent of distrust, followed by social media (79 per cent), own government (66 per cent) and foreign government (65 per cent).

In terms of fake news in India, Facebook (75 per cent) is the common source, followed by social media platforms and YouTube (72 per cent each), websites (63 per cent) and television (53 per cent).

Globally, social media companies emerged as the leading source of user distrust in the Internet — surpassed only by cyber criminals — with 75 per cent of those surveyed who distrust the Internet citing Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms as contributing to their lack of trust.

While cyber criminals, cited by 81 per cent of those who distrust the Internet, remained the leading source of distrust, a majority in all regions (62 per cent globally) indicated that a lack of Internet security was also a critical factor.

“This year’s survey of global attitudes not only underscores the fragility of the Internet, but also netizens’ growing discomfort with social media and the power these corporations wield over their daily lives,” Fen Osler Hampson, a distinguished fellow at CIGI and director of its Global Security and Politics programme, said.

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As per the survey, 92 per cent Indians are increasingly concerned about their online privacy and security.

At the same time, 71 per cent Indians agree the government does enough to safeguard their online data and personal information. And about four in 10 are familiar with blockchain technologies.

“The survey results tell us that people around the world are increasingly concerned about their privacy and security online,” said Sally Wentworth, Vice-President of Global Policy Development for the Internet Society.

“However, we also see that users aren’t utilizing tools like encryption that can help secure their communications. From keeping messages private to protecting critical infrastructure, encryption is an essential tool for digital security.”

While 73 per cent said they wanted their online data and personal information to be stored in their own country, majorities in Hong Kong (62 per cent), Indonesia, Egypt, India (57 per cent), Brazil and Mexico said they wanted their online data and personal information stored outside of their country.

One in 10 (12 per cent) globally admit to accessing the dark web, with higher percentages in India (26 per cent), Russia (22 per cent) and Brazil (21 per cent).

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Two-thirds (66 per cent) of global citizens — a majority in every country surveyed — believe the dark web should be shut down. In India, 67 per cent favours this.

However, this number is down from 71 per cent in 2016.

However, a digital divide is evident between the world’s developed and developing economies when it comes to cryptocurrencies.

More than one in three (37 per cent) Indians plan to use or purchase cryptocurrencies within the next year, the survey warned. (IANS)