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Are Tampa Bay cities prepared for cyber-ransom attacks?

Cities in the region are no stranger to these types of attacks.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The city of Baltimore has seen much of its online activity shut down for the last few weeks, with hackers holding access to the city’s servers at ransom. 

The cyber attack has shut down the city email system and disabled the city’s online payment system. It is one of a handful of similar cyber-ransom attacks to various municipalities around the country.

Cities in the Tampa Bay area are no stranger to these types of attacks.

In February, former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s Twitter account was hacked. It took the city hours to get on top of the attack. 

Last October, hackers got into the city of St. Petersburg’s website and gained access to at least 28,000 people’s credit card information.

When asked how the city has improved its cybersecurity measures since the February Twitter hack, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor’s spokesperson Ashley Bauman told 10News that the city does not discuss the security on its servers, only saying that they are monitored “24/7.”

The city of Sarasota was hit with a cyber ransom attack in 2016, when hackers locked access to the city’s files and demanded a ransom payment in bitcoin. The city’s IT director, Herminio Rodriguez, was able to contain the malware within a matter of hours, but he warns other cities to be prepared for when it happens to them.

“It’s not if, it’s when,” said Rodriguez, talking about the inevitability of being targeted by hackers.

It can take months for a city to recover for a cyber ransom attack and can cost millions of dollars. 

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a cyber-ransom attack on the city of Atlanta in 2018 ended up costing the city around $17 million.

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