How Baltimore Agencies Are Working Through the Cyberattack

After a ransomware attack hit the city for the second time in about a year, Baltimore officials shut down most of the government's servers. Here's what's still working, what isn't and how the agencies are handling it.

by Lillian Reed, McKenna Oxenden and Ian Duncan, The Baltimore Sun / May 10, 2019
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(TNS) — Baltimore city agencies are scrambling this week to conduct business as normal amid a ransomware attack on government computers.

Here’s a list of city departments and agencies that have undergone operational changes since the attack:

311 Services

The city’s 311 call center was still operating this week, but employees had to find a “workaround” to process calls from members of the public, operations manager Nelson Eaton said.

“We had to adjust our methods, but we’re still up and running,” Eaton said.

The call center operators are using laptops that weren’t connected to the city’s network to direct callers’ questions and complaints to appropriate city agencies. However, operators are not able to view wait times and the mobile app does not appear to be working.

Baltimore City Council

City government emails and voicemail, including for council members, were not working. An employee for Council President Brandon Scott’s office said employees were having trouble with some phone lines as well.

Councilman Zeke Cohen said individuals can leave a voicemail at the temporary phone number 410-870-9147.

Councilman Bill Henry said the public can visit his district office at 5225 York Road in person from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Constituents also may call 410-396-4830 or, alternatively, send a text message or leave a voicemail at 667-401-3268. Henry’s office is using the email address bdistrict4@gmail.com.

Councilman Kristerfer Burnett said members of his office can be reached at 410-396-4818, but voicemail is unavailable. Councilman John Bullock’s office can be reached at 410-396-4815.

Baltimore Police Department

In the event of an emergency, 911 services are still working. However, city officials acknowledged this week that Baltimore Police’s email system was not working.

Department of Housing and Community Development

Michael Guye, the housing department's director of homeownership, estimated that because of the ransomware attack about a dozen people wouldn't be able to close on new houses using city incentive programs that provide money to buyers.

"Settlements are going to be pushed back because people can't get approval to settle," said Guye.

Board of Elections

The city’s board of elections emails and website were down this week, according to a social media post Wednesday. Members of the public are still able to turn in voter registration applications, according to Election Director Armstead Jones.

However, staffers did tell one person, an election judge looking to pick up a verification of income document, that he needed to come back when the computer system was back up, Jones said.

Department of Finance

Employees of the City's Finance Department are out front of the Abel Wolman Municipal Building telling people that, due to the network outage, they can't conduct business or pay bills today with cash. Check and money orders only.

Enoch Pratt Free Library

Baltimore’s library system was not affected by the cyber attack, library spokeswoman Meghan McCorkell said in an email Thursday. However, the Central Library chose to slightly reduce public computer hours so that city agencies could use the computer labs to access the payroll system for public employees, McCorkell said.

The library still has computers available for public use on the third floor, she said.

Department of Public Works

Public Works and 311 are working closely with each other to make sure all service requests are being fulfilled, Baltimore Public Works spokesman Jeffrey Raymond said.

The director of public works also suspended late water bill fees for city and county customers, according to a department social media post Tuesday.

“The email outage has also taken down phone lines to Customer Support and Services, so for now we're unable to take calls to discuss water billing issues,” the post states. “Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Recreation and Parks

Services such as online payment, permits, program registration and service requests are unavailable. Any service requests should be sent through 311, another tweet said.

The agency encouraged people to drop off applications for Camp Baltimore at any recreation center and to use a money order for payment. Permit applications can be dropped off at 3201 Boston St. from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, and Fridays only.

The Shake & Bake roller rink is accepting cash only until further notice, according to a tweet.

Baltimore City State's Attorney’s Office

The office was not experiencing problems Thursday, but employees were working offline as a precaution. Members of the public wishing to contact the office are asked to call by phone.

Legislative Reference

Without email or access to computers, employees with the city’s department of legislative reference — which helps city officials research and draft ordinances and laws — were struggling to get work done, said attorney Tony DeFranco.

“We don’t have access to printers or things we drafted to go to City Council,” DeFranco said Thursday.

The department also works with the Board of Ethics. Complaints can still be filed with the ethics board, but must be done so in person, he said.

Archives and Records Management

Baltimore City Archives is the central depository for the city’s government records. The office has operated jointly with the Maryland State Archives since 2010, employing one city staffer and two state staff members, according to director Rob Schoeberlein.

While the city employees’ email addresses are not working because of the ransomware attack, all other email accounts for the department are functioning normally. The archives’ wireless connection is also separate from the city and was not affected.

“If there’s records to transfer, people can call over the telephone and we can still do that,” Schoeberlein said. That number is 410-396-3884.

Office of Sustainability

Department officials are able to provide services to individuals who call, but can’t receive any emails or voicemails. There is also no ability to share documents with the drive down, according to an office representative.

War Memorial Commission

Members of the public are able to request services that do not require online searching. However, if a request for service is submitted through an online form, the War Memorial Commission won’t receive it.

Operations manager Joshua Bornfield suggests people call the agency for their request because they might be able to directly provide documents, like World War II release forms, directly. The other agencies housed within the War Memorial Commission — such as the Maryland Chapter of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans — are still fully functioning.

Department of Transportation

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.

To retrieve their vehicles, citizens must provide proof of ownership; make a cash payment of any administrative, towing or storage fees; and sign a release form acknowledging that fines and late fees might be due for the vehicle.

Citizens will still be responsible for any citations and fees once the system becomes operational. Vehicle owners are able to close a delinquent or past due accounts by showing a letter of proof that outline the balance due, according to the release.

Vehicles are still subject to booting or towing, the release states.

Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter

BARCS’ phone lines and network computers are hosted in the city’s servers. As a result, BARCS phone lines, staff emails ending in @barcs.org and @barcsanimalshelter.org are not functioning.

The public is asked to use these emails to contact BARCS:

Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals

If callers have general questions about how zoning codes might be applied, the agency will be able to help.

Callers with a specific question might be out of luck. The computers are down, making most of the comprehensive records for parcels, block and lot numbers and historical data unavailable. Agency officials are advising people to call with questions, but are also warning they might may need to call again once the system is back up and running.

Baltimore Development Corporation

The non-profit organization, which serves as the economic development agency for Baltimore, shares a web server and email with the city, according to representative Susan Yum.

Employees were being “resourceful” this week to get work done, Yum said.

Members of the public looking to reach corporation employees may call the main office at 410-837-9305.

Office of Promotion and the Arts

Baltimore’s nonprofit arts council had no internet or email this week, but CEO Donna Sawyer said the website was running as normal. The nonprofit has set up a temporary email address, promotionandarts@gmail.com. Members of the public can still reach employees at 410-752-8632.

Office of the Inspector General

The office is accepting hotline calls directly at 443-984-3690.

©2019 The Baltimore Sun. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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