Weeks after ransomware crippled the city’s computer networks, almost all city employees are back online and able to use their work computers, officials said today. But hurdles remain before some financial operations, such as water billing, can be brought back. Sheryl Goldstein, deputy chief of staff of operations in Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s administration, said 95 percent or more of city workers are back online, and servers for storing documents and printers are once again operational.
While the city is able to print and mail out property tax bills, Goldstein said there’s still no set date for some of the city’s other financial software, such as the water-billing system. Administration officials are working with the IT department to develop a timeline for the affected programs.
“They have to identify the impacted applications, they have to restore the data, they have to test and make sure that applications that speak to each other have the code that’s written properly to actually interact in the way that they’re supposed to before bringing them back online,” she said. “That’s gonna take time.”
When Atlanta was attacked last year, she said, the timeline for getting everything fixed was six months. Baltimore officials are working on restoring their highest priority programs and going from there.
Even with something like the system for water bills, which The Sun‘s Ian Duncan pointed out is newer software, the immense amount of data and number of servers require a lot of testing before the city can begin billing.
The Board of Estimates this morning approved $10 million in emergency funds to pay for all the fixes. Reporters questioned why the money didn’t go through the typical procurement process, instead of being processed through the spending board in a lump sum.
Goldstein and Young said the emergency nature of the attack required the city reach out to vendors it already had contracts with.
“This is something that has never happened to the city of Baltimore before, and we couldn’t go through procurement for that reason,” Young said. “We had to get people in here who could help us recover our system.”
As the process continues, the city will likely start bidding out some of the work, Young said. Goldstein added that contracts for the ongoing work will eventually be released.
Hackers brought down the city’s email and web service on May 7, using RobbinHood software to lock employees out of their own computers. They demanded a ransom of 13 bitcoins, or roughly $166,000 by today’s exchange rate, to bring all the systems back online.
The city refused, opting to pay to recover data and upgrade its IT infrastructure. The FBI has been investigating the attack.