The recent ransomware attack that immobilized Baltimore’s computer systems represents the latest in a line of similar cyber attacks against cities and towns across the United States. Three weeks after the attackers struck, city government systems remained crippled, leading municipal leaders to ask for federal assistance to help finance a cleanup that’s likely to cost at least $18.2 million. The mayor now says that a full recovery may take months.
Meanwhile, security experts warn this is a harbinger, not a one-off. Thomas MacLellan, Director of Policy and Government Affairs for Symantec, cautions that towns and cities nowadays have “a big target on their backs because attackers will use the same [tactics and techniques] borrowed from successful attacks to branch out. The attacks against cities like Baltimore, Atlanta and others should be a wake-up call to other midsize cities and towns. It’s time to up your cyber defenses.”
Per a number of press reports, lax security allowed cyber criminals to break into Baltimore’s IT systems. Looking back, the early warning signs are now apparent; since 2012, four Baltimore CIOs were either dismissed or resigned amid complaints that basic security protocols had routinely been ignored. According to MacLellan, similar conditions are present in many other municipalities across the country. And where security lapses exist, ransomware attackers are sure to follow.