The ransomware attack on government computers in Baltimore City has affected various agencies’ day-to-day activities. It has also halted scheduled updates to several government datasets on Open Baltimore, the city’s open data website. Some geospatial datasets on the Baltimore City Open GIS Data webpage are also unavailable for download.
That website is hosted by Esri, a California-based geospatial information company. However, a spokesman for the company confirmed that all of the datasets on the page are hosted on Baltimore city servers.
Specifically, datasets hosted on maps.baltimorecity.gov appear to be unavailable, including boundary files of the city’s legislative districts and neighborhoods. Such files, most of which are still accessible on Open Baltimore’s “Geographic” page, are used for geospatial analysis and mapping.
The attack was discovered on May 7. Hackers used a virus to encrypt files on government systems, demanding a payment of 3 Bitcoins (equivalent to about $17,600 at current prices) to unlock a single system, or 13 Bitcoins (worth about $76,280) to unlock all the city’s systems. Officials have said they won’t pay and that it could take weeks to restore the city’s computer systems.
Here are the datasets for which regular updates have been suspended:
» 311 Customer Service Requests— last updated April 22; scheduled to be automatically updated more than once a day. The city’s 311 services are still working, and customers can submit and check the status of more recent requests either by dialing 311 (or 443-263-2220 from outside of the city) or through the 311 website or mobile app.
» 911 Police Calls for Service— last updated May 6; scheduled to be automatically updated more than once a day. The city’s 911 and EMS services are still working. The city’s computer-aided dispatch, or CAD, system, which supports the city’s 911 and 311 services, had previously been infiltrated by a ransomware attack in March of last year. The system automatically populates 911 callers’ locations on maps and dispatches the closest emergency responders there.
The CAD system was not impacted by last week’s ransomware attack, said Tammy Hawley, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore City Department of Housing who is assisting with the IT department’s communications during the outage.
» Gun Offenders—last updated March 27; scheduled to be manually updated every month. The controversial registry of Baltimore’s gun offenders was established in October 2007 through legislation first proposed by then-Mayor Sheila Dixon. As a result of the measure, people convicted of gun crimes are required to provide addresses and other information to the city every six months for three years. The Baltimore Police Department did not update this file in April, before the attack.
» BPD Arrests— last updated March 1; scheduled to be manually updated every month. The Baltimore Police Department did not update this file in April.
» Parking Citations— last updated May 4; scheduled to be automatically updated on weekdays. The ransomware virus has disabled access to the parking fines database, according to a city Department of Transportation news release. The department has created an interim process for allowing people to retrieve vehicles impounded at the Pulaski Highway lot.
» Environmental Citations— last updated May 10; scheduled to be automatically updated daily. Environmental citations are issued by the city’s Environmental Control Board for violations of Baltimore City codes related to sanitation, health, safety and other quality-of-life issues.
» Housing Permits— last updated May 7; scheduled to be automatically updated daily. The Baltimore Housing’s Office of Permits and Building Inspections lists all permits issued since April 2002.
» One Day Liquor Licenses— last updated May 3; scheduled update frequency and method not specified. One-day liquor licenses are issued by the city’s Liquor License Board for nonprofit groups, societies and associations. Those licenses are still being issued, said Thomas R. Akras, the board’s Deputy Executive Secretary. The board has issued a “handful” of one-day liquor licenses since last week, he said. Groups can apply by filling out the application form and submitting it in person to the board’s office at 1 N. Charles St.
Not all of Baltimore’s open datasets are continually updated. Some, like government employee salaries, are manually uploaded on an annual basis. Others, like officer-involved use of force incidents, are listed as being updated “ad hoc.” A few, like the BPD arrests file, have not been updated as often as they are purported to be, ransomware attack notwithstanding.
Baltimore officials have said the ransomware attack is similar to one that struck the city of Greenville, North Carolina, last month. Greenville’s website and email systems are now working again, but daily reports, such as the police department’s arrest logs and traffic crash reports, are no longer updated electronically.
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The city had been building out an “online portal” to house that data prior to the attack, said Kristen Hunter, a spokeswoman for the city of Greenville’s police department. That process has been delayed as employees digitize information that had been taken by hand during the outage, she said.
Hawley, the Baltimore spokeswoman helping with IT communications, said the information in many of Baltimore’s open datasets, like 311 and 911 calls, is still being captured normally, even if the data cannot be automatically synced with Open Baltimore while the city’s network is down.
“The only thing that can’t happen right now is it can’t be pushed to that site,” she said.