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Maryland's federal lawmakers seek FBI briefing on Baltimore ransomware attack

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen and other Maryland lawmakers have lots of questions for the FBI about the ransomware attack on Baltimore City government computer systems.

The lawmakers are seeking a briefing on, among other topics, what federal resources were provided to respond to the attack and how the city can enhance its cybersecurity.

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In a letter being sent Thursday to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Secret Service Director James Murray, the legislators also ask for the attackers’ identities and details about similar cases in other states.

The briefing would not be held until the attack is over “and any subsequent investigations conclude,” the letter said.

It said the Maryland delegation is “deeply grateful to the FBI and Secret Service for providing much-needed assistance to the City in responding to this attack.”

Baltimore officials said the attack earlier this month knocked email and payment systems offline and halted the city’s real estate market operations. Baltimore’s property market was revived Monday only after officials launched a manual system for processing sales.

Ransomware works by locking up files using encryption so users can’t access them. The hackers then demand payment to provide the cyber keys to unlock the files, typically in the hard-to-trace digital currency bitcoin. Because this strain is new, it can slip past anti-virus tools.

“As you know, this attack has caused significant disruptions to the daily operation of City services, delaying at least 1,500 pending home sales and affecting how residents pay bills and other obligations,” said the letter, signed by Van Hollen and fellow Democratic senator Ben Cardin.

Reps. Elijah Cummings, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes — all Baltimore-area Democrats —  also signed.

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