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City of Johannesburg Refuses to Pay Ransom to Hackers

The South African city of Johannesburg says it will not pay the ransom demanded by hackers who recently breached its IT systems.

The city of Johannesburg revealed on Friday, October 25, that its systems had been illegally accessed by hackers, which led to its official website and various services being taken offline. Impacted services include billing, property valuation, land information, health and others.

A hacker group calling itself Shadow Kill Hackers has taken credit for the attack and posted a screenshot apparently showing that it has stolen data from the compromised systems.

Shadow Kill Hackers describes itself as a group whose goal is to find vulnerabilities and disclose them to affected organizations — but for a fee.

Messages left by the hackers on compromised computers claimed all servers and data were “hacked.” They also claimed to have dozens of backdoors that gave them control over everything in the city. “We can shut off everything with a button,” the hackers said.

They have asked the city to pay 4 bitcoin, worth roughly $37,000, by October 28, otherwise they would make public the financial and personal information they allegedly obtained as a result of the hack.

The hackers have leaked data allegedly stolen from a few South African tourism companies in an attempt to show Johannesburg representatives what will happen if they don’t pay up.

However, in a statement posted on Monday, the city, which has described the attack as opportunistic, said it had already managed to restore some of the impacted systems. The city is confident that it can fully restore affected services and it does not plan on paying the ransom.

This attack comes a few months after City Power, the power company in Johannesburg, suffered serious disruptions after its systems became infected with a piece of file-encrypting ransomware. That incident caused the company’s website and electricity vending systems to become unavailable, preventing many people from acquiring electricity units and leaving them in the dark.

Related: U.S. Mayors Pledge Not to Give in to Ransomware Demands

Related: As Ransomware Rages, Debate Heats Up on Response

Related: 'Coordinated' Ransomware Attack Hits 23 Towns in Texas

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.