The ongoing Baltimore ransomware attack — which demands Bitcoin — has shut down the city’s digital systems for three weeks. The ransomware was apparently developed as a cyber-weapon, stolen from the National Security Agency (NSA) in a security breach.
The New York Times is reporting that the ransomware has frozen thousands of computers, shut down email servers, disrupted real estate sales, and basic public utilities.
Governor Larry Hogan has yet to request a federal emergency or declaration of disaster.
National Security Agency Created The Ransomware
The tragedy is that the Baltimore ransomware attack was not produced solely by external hackers. Instead, the malicious software was created by the NSA at taxpayers’ expense.
In 2017, the NSA lost control of its own tool, EternalBlue, which has since been allegedly picked up by state-run hackers in China, North Korea, and Russia.
The ransomware was dumped online by a still-unidentified group known as the Shadow Brokers. It has been called the “most destructive and costly NSA breach in history.” However, because it is shrouded in mystery, the media has been largely ignoring the story.
Baltimore Ransomware Attack: Pay Ransom With Bitcoin
Earlier this month, Baltimore city workers’ screens suddenly locked as a message appeared on all their screens: give us $100,000 in BTC [Bitcoin] to free your files. “We’re watching you for days,” the message said. “We won’t talk more, all we know is MONEY! Hurry up!” the message further read, as reported by The Baltimore Sun.
Three weeks have passed since the threat was first issued and, still, officials are no closer to solving the problem. Even worse, the Baltimore ransomware attack is spreading — with Greenville, North Carolina reportedly also experiencing shutdowns.
Officials Misunderstand the Scope of the Problem
Many government officials seem to be expecting the NSA to provide a “key” to solve the entire problem. However, ransomware doesn’t quite work like that.
The Mayor of the city, Jack Young, says that, currently, there is no timeline for when the Baltimore ransomware attack will be fixed. However, it’s preventing city workers from getting their pay. The shut-down cannot last for much longer without social services feeling squeezed.
Decentralized Government Systems Needed
The Baltimore ransomware attack underscores the current vulnerabilities in most municipal and state systems. With most possessing single points of failure and being woefully outdated, they are easy targets.
A more decentralized government system would put an end to such attacks or, at the very least, significantly reduce their impact. However, given that the federal government is not even willing to resolve the ongoing attack in Baltimore, a complete redesign of existing government systems seems like a far-fetched dream.
We can thus expect such attacks to be more and more common as warfare continues to expand into the digital realm.
Do you believe that state actors are behind the Baltimore ransomware attack? Do you think demanding payment in Bitcoin (BTC) is such a good idea, given that it isn’t a privacy-focused cryptocurrency? Let us know your thoughts below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.