Baltimore/Washington: The government computers of the Baltimore city in the US state of Maryland, have been shockingly held hostage for three weeks after being hit by a ransomware attack. The cyber attackers have made a ransom demand of $100,000 in the form of Bitcoins, and the local administration has refused to accede. In another shocking revelation, the malware which paralysed the city used the hacking tool, ‘EternalBlue’ which had been developed by the US National Security Agency (NSA).
On May 7th, a widespread cyberattack was launched on the Baltimore city’s cyber infrastructure. The city government’s entire computer network was shut down. All the online services provided by the administration, to millions of citizens, were disrupted. These include the services provided by various departments such as water, health and real estate. After taking down the entire network, a message threateningly demanding the ransom of $100,000 in Bitcoins appeared on the computer screens of the administration.
However, the city officials have refused to give in to the hackers’ ransom demands and pay up, bringing the city’s online infrastructure to a standstill. It has inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of people. The IT department is developing independent workarounds for the citizens, although it has not attained complete success. Resultantly, the lockdown has lead to simmering discontent among the general public while the people’s representatives have also expressed extreme displeasure.
The ‘EternalBlue’, a hacking tool that was developed by the US intelligence agency, the NSA was used for the ransomware attack, which has held the entire city’s online infrastructure hostage. The New York Times, a leading US daily, had published a report on the hack where the cyber attack in the US city of Texas, last year also finds a mention. The Texas city of San Antonio was also a victim to a similar attack which had used the NSA tool.
The NSA-developed hacking tool, EternalBlue was used to exploit the loopholes in Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Nevertheless, in 2017, a hacking group called the Shadow Brokers leaked the NSA-tool, making it available online. After that, it was widely used in the ransomware attacks around the world while Baltimore city is the latest victim hit due to such an attack.