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Baltimore calls for federal emergency declaration after cyber attack

City council president wants the federal government to have a larger supporting role in helping the city recover from the attack that disabled computer systems and key citizen services.

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Baltimore's government systems and key citizen services were disabled by the attack
Baltimore's government systems and key citizen services were disabled by the attack

The city of Baltimore’s mayor and city council president are calling for the recent ransomware attack that has crippled the city’s operations and services for several weeks to be classified as a federal emergency and disaster.

 

According to reports, if granted, the Presidential FEMA declaration would allow for federal reimbursement for damages, costs and infrastructure repairs related to the cyber-attack. The Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act stipulates that only a state governor can petition for a declaration.

 

Cyber weapon breach?

 

The request follows a New York Times report that the Baltimore attack and other attacks against cities and towns across the US are the result of a National Security Agency (NSA) developed cyber weapon that was stolen in a security breach, though this has been denied by the NSA.

 

Named EternalBlue, the weapon is estimated to have caused billions of dollars in damages and is thought to be the most destructive and costly NSA security breach in history.

 

“I’ve reached out to governor [Larry] Hogan’s office today to urge his leadership and cooperation in seeking Federal Emergency & Disaster Declaration for this incident,” said Brandon Scott, council president.

 

“Given the new information and circumstances, it’s even more clear that the federal government needs to have a larger role in supporting the city’s recovery, including federal reimbursement for damages.”

 

Scott also called for the creation of a Special City Council Committee on Cybersecurity and Emergency Preparedness to investigate the attack.

 

Meanwhile, a report on the KrebsonSecurity website quoted malware analyst Joe Stewart as saying the malicious software used in the malware attack “does not contain any Eternal Blue exploit code”.

 

“I’m also confident that our federal delegation understands that cybersecurity is a critically important threat that can wreak disastrous consequences and must be categorised accordingly”

 

Press reports said a spokesman for Hogan responded to the news update on the ransomware, with a statement that read: “We continue to work closely with city leaders, including leveraging both state and federal resources, to help restore affected systems.”

 

“I’m confident that our state leadership will do what is right for Maryland’s largest city and citizens that have been attacked, likely by foreign actors, through no fault of their own,” added Scott.

 

“I’m also confident that our federal delegation understands that cyber-security is a critically important threat that can wreak disastrous consequences and must be categorised accordingly.”

 

In an earlier statement, the mayor’s office, along with city agencies and departments, said it continues to work very closely with Baltimore City Information Technology (BCIT) to identify restoration priorities and assist with the recovery process.

 

Where possible, city agencies have enacted feasible alternatives and are continuing to do so, it stated.

 

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