Ten thousand computers belonging to American city still crippled by devastating ransomware attack

The east coast American city of Baltimore is still struggling to restore its crippled computers and IT infrastructure after a devastating ransomware attack.

The cyber attack struck Baltimore’s computers on 7 May, but nearly a month later, most online city services and 10,000 computers remain crippled.

Matters have not been helped after it was reported that Google had inadvertently thwarted the city’s attempts to restore communications between citizens and staff when it shut down GMail accounts.

Petya ransomware
The Petya ransomware.

Baltimore ransomware

This attack shows the devastating nature of ransomware attacks. Last month US research AppRiver revealed a worrying admission about the actions of American companies after they are struck with a ransomware attack.

It found that more than half of executives (55 percent) at small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) state they would pay hackers to recover their stolen data in ransomware attacks.

This directly contradicts the advice of nearly all security professionals, who urge firms not to pay but instead invest money in improving cyber defences and eduction, as well as ensuring that regular backups are carried out.

And Baltimore is reportedly heeding this advice, after the hackers demanded a payment of $100,000 (£79,000) in Bitcoins to restore control of official systems to city workers.

Baltimore is so far refusing to pay the ransom.

The FBI and Secret Service are known to be investigating, the BBC reported.

But this refusal has also crippled the normal day-to-day workings of the city in the US state of Maryland.

For example house sales have been delayed, water bills cannot be generated, and people cannot pay parking fines or taxes.

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GMail defences

And just when it seems that it couldn’t get any worse for Baltimore, Google reportedly did not help matters.

City officials had apparently set up GMail accounts to restore communications between citizens and staff.

The BBC reported that the mass creation of the accounts triggered Google’s automated GMail defences which shut them down, believing they were being used by spammers.

But the good news is that Google reportedly restored access to the GMail accounts once it discovered who had created them and why.

“Our automated security systems disabled the accounts due to the bulk creation of multiple consumer Gmail accounts from the same network,” Google told the BoingBoing website.

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