Monday, June 3, 2019

Hackers Knock Out Baltimore Government

Hackers managed to shut down the city of Baltimore since early May.  Shut down means shut down - no email service, water payment collections, or other critical functions of city government.  The city didn't download a 2017 Microsoft patch and is now paying the price for such negligence.  The New York Times reported on May 22:

 More than two weeks ago, hackers seized parts of the of the computer systems that run Baltimore’s government.
It could take months of work to get the disrupted technology back online. That, or the city could give in to the hackers’ ransom demands.

“Right now, I say no,” Mayor Bernard Young told local reporters on Monday. “But in order to move the city forward? I might think about it. But I have not made a decision yet.”...

On May 7, the city discovered that it was a victim of a ransomware attack, in which critical files are encrypted remotely until a ransom is paid.

The city immediately notified the F.B.I. and took systems offline to keep the ransomware from spreading, but not before it took down voice mail, email, a parking fines database, and a system used to pay water bills, property taxes and vehicle citations.

At least 1,500 pending home sales have been delayed, too, according to a letter from a group of congressional lawmakers in Maryland requesting information on the attack from the directors of the F.B.I. and the Secret Service....

A copy of a digital ransom note, obtained by The Baltimore Sun, stated that the city could unlock the seized files for a price: three Bitcoins (nearly $24,000) per system or 13 Bitcoins (about $102,000) for them all.

(The price of this decentralized, hard-to-track virtual currency fluctuates wildly. On the day of the attack, the ransom would have cost about $17,000 per system, or less than $75,000 for them all.)

“We won’t talk more, all we know is MONEY!” the note said.... Rest of article.

However, Baltimore bears a great deal of responsibility for this disaster.  Microsoft issued a patch in 2017 to fix the exploit yet the city never downloaded the update. Fortune's Robert Hackett pointed a finger a Baltimore:

 A story published by the The New York Times last weekend claiming the U.S. National Security Agency is partly responsible for helping to spread the computer-seizing digital infection. The report alleges that hackers used malware, dubbed RobbinHood, paired with EternalBlue, a powerful, self-propagating hacking tool allegedly developed by the NSA to target (now outdated) Microsoft Windows software. The code behind EternalBlue leaked online at the hands of a mysterious, still-unknown entity called the ShadowBrokers in 2017, and nation state actors have used the weapon to launch destructive cyberattacks—including North Korea’s WannaCry and Russia’s NotPetya—costing billions of dollars in damages for businesses and governments around the globe...

 If EternalBlue truly was key to the Baltimore attack, as the Times initially reported, then it would appear that Baltimore had for years failed to update its computer systems to defend against a known, critical vulnerability. Microsoft released a patch in 2017; the exploit works on machines running Windows software that’s two years out of date. The harsh truth: Baltimore should have been better prepared.

Keeping IT systems up to date and secured is easier said than done, of course. Government offices are perennially resource-strapped and impoverished of tech expertise, struggling to get by on dated equipment. (I used to work in local government—trust me.) And another point to consider: Even if the NSA is not to blame for Baltimore’s debacle, that still does not absolve the agency of its prior negligence. It’s unclear how the spooks lost control of their bag of cyber tricks, including EternalBlue, a couple years ago, let alone the identities of the thieves that call themselves the ShadowBrokers.

As we ponder these questions and wait for Baltimore to release more details about its thwomping, a recommendation: For the love of all that’s holy, please patch this other critical, wormable Windows security hole. Microsoft released a patch for the bug, dubbed BlueKeep, on May 14th, but as of two weeks later 900,000 computers still appear to remain vulnerable, by Wired’s count. If you need a reason to act with celerity, just look at Baltimore. Article
Government systems are apparently easy prey for these attacks as they usually are composed of outdated systems slapped together.   That wouldn't be the case around here, would it?


Anonymous said...

They can't hack a city water system that is managed with 3x5 cards.

Anonymous said...

Baltimore is a blue city. 'nuf said. Watch "The Wire" to learn more.

Anonymous said...

They could cripple Jackson. I'd bet they don't have the updates or the encryption to keep an attack from happening, and they damn sure don't have the money to pay the ransom.

Anonymous said...

Baltimore, another one of those "radical" cities, and other similarities to Jacksonistan.

Anonymous said...

Windows 7 end of life is just a few months away. Microsoft just released a patch for a vulnerability so bad that they even developed and released a patch for Windows XP and Vista.

Those of you out there with old computers and a lot of fears should consider a great free operating called Mint which is very easy to install and use and is updated regularly and as easily as Windows.

Another alternative is to just get a Mac. I hear they are good for like, creative people and stuff.

Anonymous said...

I don’t want to shock anyone but it doesn’t have to be a blue city to suffer an attack. Any city, utilities or voting machine can be hacked. If a war starts don’t be concerned about Nukes, the cyber attack will be much worse.

Anonymous said...

@12:23 PM - I believe that you are referring to "Linux Mint," not "Mint," but good suggestion.

Anonymous said...

12:39 point taken but still I'd rather be "cyber hacked" than have a nuke dropped on my head any day.

Anonymous said...

One party rule.

Anonymous said...


BUT if are nuked I'd rather the first one hit me right square on my head !

Anonymous said...

It's past time for our state and national government to take economic cyber security seriously as a number one priority. On the local and state level prison terms at least commensurate with violent crimes, and internationally, stiff sanctions for any nation harboring these criminals. This ransom stuff is the very tip of a dangerous iceberg which could cripple any nation's economy. Ten years from now these hackers could control our economy like the cartels control our borders.

Anonymous said...

12:11 You really think only cities like Baltimore and Jackson are vulnerable to this stuff? Are you serious?

Anonymous said...

@2:21 PM
The State of Mississippi Information Techology Services (ITS) has top graduates of Jackson State University on the job. Bet you didn't know JSU even had an Cyber Security program? Some of them even know how to use SSH and nmap.

The problem is that your average state employee doesnt know the wifi from the hifi.

Anonymous said...

Anybody want a great (and sobering) read? Check out Ted Koeppel's "Lights Out".

Q: How likely is an attack on just one of our power grids?
Ted Koppel: Very. When I posed that question to former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, she put the likelihood at 80 or 90 percent. General Lloyd Austin, who currently heads up the U.S. military’s Central Command, told me that it’s not a question of “if, but of when.” Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned of a cyber Pearl Harbor, and President Obama highlighted the threat to our power grid in his 2013 State of the Union address. In short, government and military leaders think it’s likely, and I found no compelling evidence to the contrary.

This country runs on electricity. Everything. No electricity for a year in 5 states? 80 Million without access to their bank accounts, cell phone communication, no household water or sewage disposal, no heat/air-conditioning for a YEAR?.....major, out of control disaster within a week/s time. Riveting, real, and is being predicted.....but their Is. No. Plan. Because there's nothing we could do.

Anonymous said...

Same people in charge of protecting our government and financial networks and databases and systems are the same people in charge of our roads and bridges and PERS and Social Security.

I think the Mormons are the only ones who will be ready. You are gonna need a huge pantry if we ever get in a war with Russia or China. They won't have to fire one nuke.

Anonymous said...

4:05 We don't want to hear about it and we don't want to think about it. It's just another big government expense our grandkids can pay when it all goes bad. Any politician who dares bring that hot potato to the table will get run out of town. Forget about it!

Anonymous said...

Coming to a city near you. Hint: Jackistan

Anonymous said...

Security by obscurity (and incompetence). Who in the hell would waste their time hacking any MS municipality or state government agency? The quality of data stolen would be so bad it would be unusable anyway.

Anonymous said...

Jackson was hacked and shut down for about 3 weeks.

C-L refused to run a story.


Anonymous said...

@9:44 PM You obviously didn't read the story. It's RANSOMEWARE! They lock out the owners of their own computer system unless .... wait for it....a RANSOM is paid via Bitcoins.

Try to keep up.

Anonymous said...

City of Jackson needs to hire a consultancy to investigate their cyber infrastructure vulterabilities as well as the feasibility of investment in blockchains to facilitate the payments of any ransoms with cryptocurrencies going forward.

Minority owned firms need only apply for this special set aside endeavor.

Soon we will se the birth og Geto-coin.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that some people in this vicinity can read the contents of a can of soup and conclude that the City of Jackson is the worst hellhole in
the universe. Isn't there some looming crisis not directly related to the disaster of Jackson?

Anonymous said...

I'm waiting for an attack on a small city like Tupelo or Greenville. Like you can't hide from this threat anywhere. Mayberry could come crashing down.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS