The mayor of Baltimore said this week that he’s open to paying off the hackers who paralyzed the city’s computer systems and are now demanding about $100,000 to restore the data, despite once likening the payoff as “rewarding bank robbers for robbing banks.”
The city has been coping with the ransomware attack since May 7, when the hackers infected the computer systems of the city. Hackers asked the city to pay about $23,000 in Bitcoin to stop the infection.
The city refused to comply with the hackers’ demands, a move that raised the ransom to about $100,000. Baltimore had until May 17 to pay the sum. It missed the deadline and the sum risen $10,000 per day since.
Democratic Mayor Jack Young initially ruled out paying off the hackers, likening it to “rewarding bank robbers for robbing banks” and adding that “No, we're not going to pay a ransom.”
But this week Young has taken are more conciliatory tone, saying, “To move the city forward, I might think about it.”
Cybersecurity experts say Baltimore is playing with fire after missing the deadline to the ransom to hackers holding several of the city's servers hostage.
"What's frustrating with Baltimore is that it's been quite a long time since the infection," Daniel Tobok, CEO of Cytelligence, told Fox News. "If they aren't fully operational by now, why are they still playing with this?"
Tobok, whose company has helped 500 municipalities hit by ransomware attacks, says while he doesn't necessarily advocate paying off cyber crooks, he believes that, in some instances, "you don't have a choice, you have to make a business decision."
“Baltimore is playing with time,” he said. “They are going to come to a point where they have two choices. A, the (ransom demands) are going to skyrocket or, B, the hackers will shut down the account they have been using and move out.”
“Baltimore is playing with time. They are going to come to a point where they have two choices. A, the (ransom demands) are going to skyrocket or, B, the hackers will shut down the account they have been using and move out.”
Due to the hack, the city is cannot use email or voicemail, its online bill payment system also doesn’t work and parking fine data remains inaccessible. The city also cannot process real estate transactions or collect property taxes.
The city had to scramble to come up with ways fore the government function, including opening Gmail accounts.
But Google inadvertently thwarted Baltimore’s search to find a workable solution to the problem of having no email access. The Baltimore Sun reported that Baltimore officals set up multiple Gmail accounts after the ransomware attack.
On May 23, Google’s automated systems mistakenly perceived the numerous Gmail accounts as the work of spammers. The tech giant says that it has solved the issue, enabling Baltimore officials to use Gmail.
"We have restored access to the Gmail accounts for the Baltimore city officials,” it explained in a statement emailed to Fox News. “Our automated security systems disabled the accounts due to the bulk creation of multiple consumer Gmail accounts from the same network."
Fox News’ Barnini Chakraborty and James Rogers contributed to this report.