Attack on city computers prevents employees from sending email and knocked out bill pay websites, as hackers demand $76,000
Hackers have seized control of government computers for the city of Baltimore, demanding ransom and leaving the city locked out of basic technology for more than two weeks.
The ransomware attack, discovered on 7 May, infected city computers, officials said, forcing the city to take down online services and systems to contain the extent of the damage. As of Wednesday, the city remains unable to send or receive email.
The hackers demanded more than $76,000 worth of bitcoins in exchange for removing the file-locking virus, according to a ransom note obtained by the Baltimore Sun, which asked for 13 bitcoins to release all of the citys systems.
Weve [been] watching you for days and weve worked on your systems to gain full access to your company and bypass all of your protections, the note said. We wont talk more, all we know is MONEY! Hurry up! Tik Tak, Tik Tak, Tik Tak!
Baltimore has refused to pay up, and the FBI is investigating, as the city scrambles to get its computer systems back up and running.
The ransom note identified the malware used as RobbinHood.
The hack, which affected computers used by about 7,000 people, knocked out websites that Baltimore residents use to pay water bills and parking tickets and submit applications online, as well as taking government email accounts out of commission.
Real estate sales were also halted, but the city was able to resume them on Monday with transactions that must be made in person. The city was able to process 42 deed applications on the first day of the manual system, the mayors office said.
We are well into the restorative process, said Mayor Bernard C Jack Young. We engaged leading industry cybersecurity experts who are on-site 24-7 working with us.
The city has not given a timeline for when all services will be restored and said it could take months.
Our focus is getting critical services back online, and doing so in a manner that ensures we keep security as one of our top priorities throughout this process, Young said. You may see partial services beginning to restore within a matter of weeks, while some of our more intricate systems may take months in the recovery process.
Citizens have still been able to call 911 for emergencies, and have had to do business with the government in person or by phone.
Its the second time hackers have attacked Baltimores computers in just over a year. An attack last year targeted the citys 911 and 311 phone systems.
And Baltimore is not the only US city to fall victim to hackers demanding ransom. There have been cyber-attacks against more than 20 municipalities this year alone, according to NPR.
Young took office as mayor just this month, after the previous Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh resigned amid a scandal over sales of her Healthy Holly childrens books, which were bought by companies with business before the city.