Lake City agrees to pay $460K ransom in cyberattack

LAKE CITY, Fla. — Lake City is about to pay nearly half-million dollars to the hackers who crippled its computer system.

Action News Jax first told you last week about a triple threat ransomware attack that knocked out the city’s email and the community’s ability to pay its bills online.

“I would’ve never dreamed this could’ve happened, especially in a small town like this,” Lake City Mayor Stephen Witt said.

For the past two weeks, Witt has been dealing with the fallout of a cyberattack on his city.

Now, he says the city will pay the cyberattackers $460,000 to get its computer system back.

Witt said it was a tough decision to make.


Action News Jax reporter Jamarlo Phillips asked, “Mayor Witt, in your 14 years of being mayor here in Lake City, is this the first time the city has experienced something like this?" "Absolutely,” Witt explained.

Witt said an employee in City Hall infected machines across its network by opening an email.

“Somebody was smart enough to hack into their system. Maybe they need to get better security as far as their computer systems go,” said Lake City resident Kirria Newby.

“They need to catch those hackers because they aren’t only hacking City Hall,” resident Nadine Janigan said.

The mayor told Phillips the city decided to pay the hackers after talking with the FBI and its insurance company.

“Our insurance will cover all of it except $10,000,” Witt said. He said that will be the citizens' responsibility.

“It wouldn’t impact them directly today or tomorrow, but the insurance rate will probably go up for everybody,” said Witt.

Today, Action News Jax talked on the phone with an FBI special agent who told us the agency doesn't encourage people to pay cybercriminals.

It says that, if you need to report any cybercrime, you can do so through the FBI's internet crime complaint center.

Witt says all of the city’s emergency services are in full operation.

He said it could take weeks or even months for all services to return to normal.

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