Hackers demanded $17 million worth of bitcoin as ransom from city of Saint John

Nearly $17 million worth of bitcoin -- that was the ransom demand of those behind the cyberattack about four months ago on the IT systems of the city of Saint John.

The city released that information publicly for the first time this week.

"They submitted a ransom demand of 670 bitcoin, which at that point in time, third week of November, translated to about just under $17 million Cdn.," said Saint John city manager John Collin.

Collin says they wanted to keep the number confidential, initially in case they had to negotiate with the hackers.

In mid-November last year, Saint John was hit by the wide-reaching attack, which forced the city to shut down all of its IT services.

The attack was revealed to be ransomware, where a fee or a ransom is demanded in order to be able to unlock encrypted files -- a ransom the city ruled out paying.

"These are criminals, and there's no guarantee, there's no better business bureau that you could go to if they fail to comply," Collin said.

It's a decision that B.C.-based cybersecurity expert, Dominic Vogel, who has been following the Saint John cyber attack saga, applauds.

"I do commend the city for not paying the ransom," Vogel said from Vancouver. "You know, if you're in a spot where you can recover and or rebuild, do so; paying the ransom only helps to propagate the problem further."

That's what the city is doing instead, rebuilding the system from scratch.

Overall, recovery costs are estimated to be about $3 million, however staff expect more than 85 per cent of that will be covered by insurance.