New cybersecurity committee to meet for first time following ransomware attack

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Photo by Wally Gobetz, via Flickr

A city council committee formed in the wake of a ransomware attack that crippled municipal networks is set to hold its inaugural meeting on Wednesday.

The Cybersecurity and Emergency Preparedness Committee is scheduled to meet in the “Du” Burns Council Chambers at City Hall on Nov. 6 at 5 p.m.

City Council President Brandon Scott, who formed the committee after the May cyber attack, said the group will review the soft spots in the city’s networks that allowed the breach to happen and how future strikes can be prevented.

“A modern city needs a modern technology infrastructure,” he said. “I’ve asked the committee chairs to conduct a comprehensive review of the vulnerabilities and response that allowed the ransomware attack to have such a devastating impact our city. Over the next year, the committee will make recommendations on policies, practices, and technology we need to have an IT infrastructure with integrity.”

Councilman Eric Costello (District 11) and Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer (District 5), are co-chairs of the committee. They’re joined by Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton (District 6).

In the first hearing they will question members of the Baltimore City Office of Information and Technology, Office of Emergency Management and Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s office.

Scott said that over the last month Costello and Schleifer have consulted with cybersecurity experts to help shape the scope of the committee, and many have volunteered their services to help in the recovery.

“Once we get the facts about what went wrong and a clear timeline of events, we can develop recommendations for the administration to implement,” Schleifer said in a statement. “I’m thankful for the professionals who showed a willingness to help Baltimore move forward at a critical moment.”

The May 7 attack brought the city government to a halt, with employees locked out of their email accounts and files for weeks and citizens unable to pay bills or obtain permits online. Hackers who unleashed the RobbinHood software on municipal networks demanded a ransom of 13 bitcoins, or roughly $120,000 according to today’s exchange rates.

Young refused, instead choosing to restore and bolster the city’s online infrastructure and recover old files at a cost of millions.

On June 26, Young’s deputy chief of staff of operations, Sheryl Goldstein, announced 95 percent of workers were back online. But there were still lags in restoring some financial software, such as water-billing.

Exactly three months after the attack, the city said water bills were being printed and sent to residents.

In September, per The Sun, the city acknowledged publicly for the first time that some data was permanently lost as a result of the attack.

Brandon Weigel

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