After getting hacked by cyber activist group Anonymous last month for its homeless laws, the City of Fort Lauderdale beefed up its cyber security network with a hefty $430,000 worth of improvements. But city officials say it wasn't the Anonymous attack that made them spend almost half a million dollars on computer upgrades -- they were planning on doing it anyway.
Back on December 1, hacktivists attacked the city's main website -- fortlauderdale.gov -- and the Fort Lauderdale PD's website -- flpd.org -- with a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) hack, which bombarded the websites with so much traffic that they had to shut down. The attack lasted only a few hours, however, and the sites were back up by evening.
In a video warning of the attack, a masked hacker wearing the Guy Fawkes mask that has become synonymous with Anonymous demanded that the city drop the three controversial ordinances in the next 24 hours.
"It has come to our attention that Mayor John P. Seiler has become an embarrassment to the good law-abiding citizens of Fort Lauderdale," the hacker says. "You should have expected us, Mayor John Seiler."
City officials hope the new upgrades will be able to prevent this and other types of attacks in the future. But Seiler is quick to point out that these plans were in the works before a group of hackers in plastic masks made good on a threat to shut down an entire city's web presence if laws against feeding homeless people weren't struck down.
"Certainly, Anonymous probably expedited the work that needed to be done and probably exposed some areas that needed to be addressed," Seiler tells the Sun Sentinel. "I wouldn't say that [the expense] was all tied to Anonymous in any way, shape, or form."
The vast majority of Fort Lauderdale's computer upgrade bill is going for consulting and oversight. From the Sentinel:
City manager Lee Feldman broke down the emergency expenses: $366,989 for specialized security consulting and oversight services; $45,398 for software licenses to manage and control computer activities; and $17,907 for hardware to strengthen the computer infrastructure.
The City of Fort Lauderdale is just the latest victim of Anonymous' DDoS attacks. Past victims have included credit card giants Visa and Mastercard as well as online payment system Paypal, which lost almost $6 million in 2010. The reason for the hack was because Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal decided to stop allowing people to donate to Wikileaks via their systems.
Two of the three hackers, who are from the United Kingdom, were caught and sentenced to prison terms of seven months and 18 months.
And Fort Lauderdale isn't the first city to be targeted by Anonymous DDoS attacks either. That distinction is shared with Albuquerque's police department, whose website was crashed in March 2014 in retaliation for the police killing of James Boyd, an unarmed, mentally ill, homeless man who was shot.