$18 million spent so far in Baltimore City ransomware attack


Tuesday began week five of coping with a ransomware attack in Baltimore City government. City officials now expect nearly all city employees to be back on their email accounts by week's end, but other systems are still offline.

The City Finance Director Henry Raymond described the current status of city operations affected by the ransomware attack as not ideal, but manageable, and one official warned about what to expect once water billing is restored.

Mayor Jack Young brought most his cabinet to a briefing Tuesday morning on progress on repairing and restoring the city's computer operations.

"All city services remain operational. Baltimore is open for business," Young said.

To date, a third of city employees have had email service restored, with new passwords. Property tax bills are going out on schedule July 1.

But water billing remains offline.

The director of the Department of Public Works Rudy Chow, warned water meters are continuing to measure use, so residents should expect bigger than normal bills when systems go back online.

"Once the system comes back online, we will be able to process those reads on the meters, so you might get bills that goes beyond the normal monthly bills for a longer period of time," Chow said.

Finance officials estimate the cost of the ransomware attack will be $18 million: $10 million for the repair and rebuild of the city's systems and $8 million in lost revenue in interest and penalties.

They acknowledge costs could go higher.

"It's a cost we will have to bear if it goes above and we are monitoring it daily," Raymond said.

The ransom demand was $80,000 in bitcoin currency. The mayor's office noted the U.S. Conference of Mayors just passed a resolution to discourage cities from paying such ransoms.

"Even if you pay, you still have to go into your system and make sure they're out of it. You can't just bring it back up and believe they are gone. We would bear much of these costs regardless," Deputy Chief of Staff, Sheryl Goldstein, said.

The Baltimore City government is being held hostage by RobbinHood ransomware that has shut down computers. Whoever is responsible is demanding 13 Bitcoins worth about $100,000 to unlock the system. Experts said the code for the virus is impossible to break.