Ransomware Attack in Baltimore Puts Other Cities, Firms on Alert

June 7, 2019

A ransomware attack last month that targeted departments of Baltimore's city government along with other area facilities infected about 10,000 computers, causing home sales to be delayed during the busiest homebuying season of the year. Baltimore officials estimate that the RobbinHood ransomware attack has cost the city $18 million so far in damages.

Baltimore Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young says that all city services remain open since the May 7 attack that encrypted city networks, but many departments, including municipal payment and finance systems, are still facing issues and relying on “paper documents and manual workarounds.” More than 1,000 pending home sales have been delayed due to the cyber attack on the city’s systems.

The attack, which encrypted all of the data on affected users’ computers, left city employees unable to use email, shut down its payment systems and property tax portal, and put real estate transactions in the city on hold. The city was unable to process deeds or deeds of trust for recording purposes. The city also was unable to issue lien certificates.

The widespread attack also affected hospitals, ATMs, factories, and many city services. Hackers have demanded a payment of 13 bitcoins per computer to decrypt the locked computers (which equates to about $100,000 each). Baltimore has not paid the ransom, but Young hinted this week that he is considering it to start moving the city forward.

Young says the $18 million in estimated losses includes $8 million that has been lost in deferred or lost revenue while the city was unable to process payments. The tally is likely to rise, he notes.

The attack is under investigation by the FBI. A similar but smaller attack on city networks occurred last year in Atlanta. The city spent $2.6 million to recover from the incident, and refused to give into ransom demands from attackers.