Florence leaders agree to $300,000 ransom to regain access to computer network

Florence leaders agree to $300,000 ransom to regain access to computer network

FLORENCE, Ala. (WAFF) - Right now you cannot pay your utility bill on the city of Florence’s website, but the problem is larger than a simple glitch.

The city of Florence is paying out $300,000 to a group of hackers.

City leaders agreed to the ransom after learning the personal information of city employees and residents could be compromised.

Mayor Steve Holt said it's possible the hackers have personal information impacting city employees and residents that use the online bill pay system.

"We don't know what they have and what they don't have but we're not going to take that risk because we do have potential exposure of both customers and employees so we opted to adhere to the ransom,” said Holt.

There is no guarantee the hackers will release their hold on the city's network, but the mayor says the group has a track record of holding up its end of the deal.

"I am confident that they will. They're professional thieves, but they have a reputation to uphold,” said Holt.

The money is being pulled from the city's self-funded insurance fund and converted into a virtual currency called bitcoin.

"It's a separate fund. So we're blessed and fortunate to have it that way, but that's what we used it out of,” said Holt.

Now, city leaders are looking to the future to strengthen the city's cyber defenses.

“We’re rebuilding our system because if we continue on to what we have then how will we know they aren’t still inside it somewhere?”

Mayor Holt says he is hopeful the city’s network will return to normal operations by Friday.

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