BTC-demanding hackers hold Baltimore hostage for second week

In Baltimore, it’s not business as usual. The city has been under attack from cybercriminals who infiltrated the city’s system over a week ago. A week later, the hackers are still resolute that they must receive over $76,000 in Bitcoin Core (BTC) as ransom.

The unknown attackers took control of the city’s systems on May 7, effectively paralyzing the town’s operations. At the time, City Hall staffers were instructed to unplug their Ethernet cables and turn off their computers to prevent the spread of the malware. However, by then, the attackers had already seized control of most systems.

The malware, known as Robinhood, has forced the city to shift its operations to a more manual format. Residents who want to pay their bills, for instance, have to use checks or money orders by order of the city’s finance department. As would be expected, this has inconvenienced a lot of residents who exclusively pay their bills online.

One of the residents told CBS Local, “That’s super old school. Everyone pays everything online. So, that’s a little concerning and inconvenient.” Another resident told the news outlet that he doesn’t even know how to pay his bills offline.

According to a report by cyber security news outlet Dark Reading, the attackers demanded over $76,000 in ransom from the city. Citing security firm Armor, the report revealed that the hackers demanded $17,600 per infiltrated system. An analysis by Armor puts the total ransom demand at $76,280. The criminals demanded that the city pays the ransom in Bitcoin Core, providing a BTC address for the same. At press time, the wallet was still empty, indicating that the city is not willing to yield to the extortionists.

Newly-named Baltimore City Mayor Bernard Young has assured the residents that the city is working to restore the systems. In the meantime, he has urged them to use manual systems where applicable. According to the report by CBS Local, Young has made it clear that the city of Baltimore will not pay the ransom, leaving the two parties at a standoff.

Baltimore is no stranger to cyber-attacks. In March 2018, cybercriminals attacked the city’s systems, taking over some of the most crucial operations. These included the 911 emergency response systems. This time, however, the 911 and 311 systems weren’t affected.

Ransomware attacks have been on the rise in recent years. According to a CNN report, at least 170 city, state or government systems have been infiltrated since 2013. This year alone, some of the states that have been victims of ransomware attacks include Washington, Pennsylvania, Texas, New York, Florida, Utah, and North Carolina. The attackers almost always ask the victims to pay the ransom in BTC.

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