City of Pensacola, Fla., Confirms Ransomware Attack

Most systems remain offline to prevent the attack from spreading.

An ongoing cyberattack against the city of Pensacola, Fla., is confirmed to be ransomware, officials reported this week. While some email service has been restored for city workers, most of Pensacola’s systems are still disconnected to prevent the infection from spreading.

In a statement released after the Dec. 7 incident, city spokesperson Kaycee Lagarde said IT staff responded by removing computers from the city network. The city remained operational; however, some services were affected, including city emails, some city landlines, 311 customer services (calls are received, but online services are down), and online bill payments, including Pensacola Energy and City of Pensacola Sanitation Services. Emergency dispatch and 911 services were not affected.

An updated report from the Pensacola News Journal says Lagarde confirmed the attack was ransomware, but few other details were shared, including ransom amount or plans to pay it. In an email to County Commissioners, county IT staff reportedly said they were not aware of a ransom but were redirected to obtain a decryption key on the anonymized Tor network.

This email, which was initially published but has since been taken offline, said the malware used in this incident was similar to that used in an attack against security firm Allied Universal. The company has an office in Pensacola and was targeted with Maze ransomware in November. When it missed its ransom payment deadline, attackers published 700 MB of stolen data online.

If it’s true the same operators are behind the Pensacola incident, the city is in a tough spot. Pensacola is one of several Florida municipalities to be hit with ransomware this year: Lake City and Riviera Beach opted to pay ransom following attacks; shortly after, Key Biscayne was also hit with ransomware. 

The cyberattack against Pensacola occurred less than 24 hours after a shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Dec. 6. So far it seems the two incidents are unrelated, though an investigation is ongoing.

Read more details about the Pensacola attack here.

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