Guide to prevent Baltimore Ransomware Attack

Ransomware attacks have no dearth of cautionary tales & wake up calls from the past few years. However, this year in particular has been a brutal reminder of the threat. Determining whether to burn a hole in your pocket or not is a baffling situation that is realized only when your system is hit by a Ransomware.

Baltimore Threat Summary

The recent addition to the clan of crypto-viruses is Baltimore Ransomware. This nasty file-locking Ransomware variant called RobinHood pounced on the American city of Baltimore on May 7, 2019.  The government computer systems were infected, servers were taken offline & systems across the city remained inoperative for the employees for months.

Baltimore was the latest big US city, after Atlanta, Georgia and San Antonio, Texas, to be crippled with Ransomware attack in May 2019. Smaller cities like Greenville, North Carolina and Allentown, Pennsylvania were also targeted.

The painstaking process of the city’s recovery from Baltimore Ransomware took months and the fallout from the attack hasn’t been completely coped until today.

Threat Summary

Threat Summary
Name Baltimore
Type Ransomware
Category Malware
Targeted OS Windows
Symptoms It infects the system with the motive to encrypt stored user & system files. After successful encryption, the virus demands hefty ransom money of 13 bitcoins ($76,280) in exchange of the decryption key.
Damage You will not be able to access the encrypted files. The ransom message appears every time you try to open files. Additionally, it may increase the malicious payload in your system.
Removal Download Removal Tool

Threat Behavior of Baltimore Ransomware-

The Baltimore Ransomware attack targeted Microsoft Windows OS across various cities in the United States. This Ransomware encrypted key files that rendered them unusable unless the cyber criminals were paid 13 bitcoin ($100,000).

The malicious Baltimore file virus paralyzed the following city systems:

  1. PC and server issues:Around 10,000 city government computers were infected by Baltimore file extension.
  2. City Utilities compromised:The city’s public-works department couldn’t generate utility bills, for instance, new water bills for customers. This could mean residents would get unusually high bills once the problem was fixed.
  3. Real estate transactions hampered: Residents were restricted from obtaining building permits and business licenses including buying or selling homes.
  4. Public Health Systems Obstructed:Access to Baltimore’s state network by the city’s health department was obstructed. This prevented the health ministry to warn the public when bad batches of street drugs triggered overdoses.

Baltimore city under ransomware attack

The Attack is also known to have affected airports, ATMs, hospitals & factories that produced vaccines. Essential services like police, fire and EMTs had remained operational.

Baltimore Ransomware attack caused the city to lose millions from slowed payments.

 The government however refused to pay the ransom fee due to lack of guarantee of file recovery as many Ransomware attacks end with data loss.

Distribution Techniques

Exploited to blackmail Baltimore’s local government, 2019 Baltimore Ransomware attack is expected to have leveraged a hacking tool ‘Eternal Blue’. This tool was developed by the National Security Agency (NSA) that leaked online in 2017by ‘Shadow Brokers,’ a hacking group that first surfaced in mid-2016.

The success of Baltimore Ransomware Attack can be attributed to the lack of basic cyber hygiene such as application of freely available software patches and system updates.

Common Distribution Techniques of Baltimore Ransomware- 

  1. Software Bundling: Software bundling is the process in which a malicious program is distributed with other free software, to get an unnoticed entry into your computer system. When a user installs a free application, the malicious programs gains a front door entry with the free application, the user has downloaded. Thus, it is a good idea to keep an eye on the installation screens while installing these free applications.
  2. Infected Storage Devices: Your system can also get infected by using removable media such as USB hard drives and jump drives without scanning them with an anti-virus.
  3. Spam Emails – Spamming is the most economic and common method used for the distribution of such malware. The targeted users get genuine looking emails which contain .doc, .txt, and other similar attachments. These attachments can be named as anything which can grab the user’s attention and triggers him/her to open the attachment. As soon as the user opens this attachment, the malware infects the user’s computer system.
  4. Malicious Websites or Malevolent Advertisements: The malicious websites are the ones which are created just for promoting the malware infections. Such websites include but are not limited to porn sites, torrent sites and other free downloading platforms. By visiting such websites, the adware infects the user’s computer without permission. Fake advertisements and updates like Flash player and windows updates which ask the user to update to the latest version are a few examples. When the users click on such links, their computer system gets infected. That is why, it is highly recommended to resist clicking on such links. Also avoid clicking on advertisements offering free stuff such as Win an iPhones, cars or free overseas trips etc.

Adopting a mix of cyber security safeguards and following best practices like backup and recovery of data can mitigate the risks associated with such malware.

How to prevent Baltimore Ransomware from infecting your system-

  1. Keeping the Operating System Updated- In order to remain protected and avoid such infections, it is recommended to keep your Operating System updated by enabling the automatic update on your system. The systems with outdated or older versions of Operating System become an easy target for the attackers.
  2. Resist clicking on spam emails – One of the major techniques used for malware distribution is forwarding spam emails to the user. The system gets infected as soon as the user clicks on the attachment. These mails appear to be genuine, so be aware and resist falling for these tricks.
  3. Keep an eye on third party installations- It is quite important that you take due care while installing any third party applications for they are major source of such infections. Such malware programs come bundled with the free applications thereby requiring the user to remain cautious.
  4. Regular periodical backup- In order to keep your data and files safe, it is recommended to take regular back up of all your data and files either on an external drive or cloud.
  5. Use Anti-Virus Protection- We strongly recommend the use of antivirus protection/internet security in your PC like Vipre and BULL GUARD so that it remains safe.
  6. Enable the Ad Blocker/Popup Blocker in your browser- Enabling the popup blocker/ ad blocker in your chosen browser will help you to stay protected from annoying adware.
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