As of this very moment, the city of Baltimore is still under a cyber-attack by some unscrupulous tech-savvy hackers.
They took over parts of the city’s computer systems on May 7th using a ransomware virus called “RobbinHood,” which makes it impossible to access a server without a digital key that only the hackers have.
The hackers had demanded 13-bitcoins to unlock all the seized systems within 10-days or the city would lose all of the data within those computers.
However, that was over a week ago, and that deadline has long passed without (thus far) the hackers making good on their threat.
Although this incident began over 2-weeks ago, it hasn’t gained much national attention thus far. However, what is known is that on May 7th, hackers digitally seized about 10,000 Baltimore government computers and demanded around $100,000 worth in bitcoins to free them back up.
The Hackers used malicious software to block access to or take over a computer system until the owner of that system (the city of Baltimore) pays the ransom.
Some of the computers affected include the inspector general’s office, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Works, which will waive late fees on water bills because of the attack.
So far, the city government is refusing to be blackmailed, meaning that much of Baltimore’s email systems and payment platforms remain offline.
The cyber-attack has also impacted Baltimore’s real estate market temporarily because, at the time of the attack, city officials were completing several real estate sales. However, city transactions resumed on Monday.
Mayor Jack Young, who’s officially been in office for less then a month said in a prepared statement that city officials are “well into the restorative process” and have “engaged leading industry cyber-security experts who are on-site 24-7 working with us.”
Adding, “Some of the restoration efforts also require that we rebuild certain systems to make sure that when we restore business functions, we are doing so in a secure manner.” However, the mayor did not have a timeline, as to when the city’s computer systems will come back online.
However, this is Baltimore’s second ransomware attack in about 15 months, last year the city’s emergency 911 system was attacked for almost a day, putting its citizens in danger, prompting the state to investigate Baltimore’s handling of the attack.
Moreover, Baltimore, like several other cities within the last 2-years, has been hit several times by hackers. Obviously, the city’s refusal to pay hackers is a good thing. However, city employees being locked out of their email accounts and citizens unable to access essential services, including websites where they pay their water bills, property taxes, and parking tickets, has become an extremely frustrating and stressful situation.
A similar attack took place in April in Greenville, North Carolina, by hackers against government computers also using the malicious software “RobbinHood.” A spokesperson for Greenville told the Wall Street Journal that the city refused to pay the ransom, and although the hackers didn’t make good on their threat to destroy the data, the systems still aren’t entirely restored. However, the spokesperson emphasized to the Journal “all of our major technology needs are now being met.”
So far over 20 municipalities this year alone have experienced cyber-attacks by hackers. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one such attack in 2018 cost the city of Atlanta over 17 million dollars to repair their system, after the city refused to pay hackers about $50,000 in bitcoins. In retaliation, the hackers trashed the system.