Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

9/30/2019
04:15 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Baltimore Reportedly Had No Data Backup Process for Many Systems

City lost key data in a ransomware attack earlier this year that's already cost more than $18.2 million in recovery and related expenses.

The government of Baltimore reportedly lost a lot of key data in ransomware attacks earlier this year because it did not have basic policies for backing up employee systems.

A new audit has shown that prior to the attack, at least, the only copies of critical data that the city had in many instances was what was stored on user systems, the Baltimore Sun reported Friday.

Despite concerns over damaging ransomware attacks, Baltimore's IT department had no cloud backup or other data-recovery mechanisms in place. Many employees were simply saving files to their local computer drives with no other copies of the data existing anywhere else. As a result, when attackers encrypted data on those systems during the ransomware attack, the city had no way of recovering it.

The newspaper quoted one city councilman as expressing disbelief over what had happened. "Wow. That's mind-boggling to me," the Sun quoted city Councilman Eric Costello as saying. "They're the agency that should be tasked with educating people that that's a problem."

Baltimore's office of information technology did not immediately respond to a Dark Reading request for comment on the findings of the new audit.

Baltimore is one of several municipal governments that have been hit with ransomware attacks this year. The May 7 attack on the city disrupted multiple critical services and forced several operations into manual mode. The services that were affected included real estate transactions, online bill payments, telecommunication, and email.

The attackers demanded the equivalent of over $76,000 in bitcoin as ransom for decrypting the encrypted data. But city officials refused to accede to the demand and instead set out on recovering data and systems on their own.

By early July, Baltimore had already spent over $5 million on recovery. Of that, $2.8 million was on forensic analysis and detection; nearly $600,000 on technicians to deploy new systems, to replace hard drives or in staff overtime; and another $1.9 million on new hardware and software related to ransomware recovery.

The city has said it expects to spend some $10 million in response and recovery efforts this year alone. The Sun and several other news sources have also quoted city officials as saying Baltimore will lose at least an additional $8.2 million in revenues from property taxes, fines, and real estate fees.

Fundamental Oversight
Baltimore is by far not the first entity impacted in this manner after a ransomware attack, nor is it likely to be the last. Scores of organizations over the past year have either lost data or been forced into making substantial payments to recover it after a ransomware attack because they did not have proper backups or did not want to spend the time and effort on self-recovery.

Such incidents have highlighted the criticality of proper data backup and disaster recovery planning. Mark Chaplin, principal at the Information Security Forum says formal data restoration measures are a fundamental precaution for organizations these days.

"With so much attention on ransomware as a prevalent method of attack, lack of backup represents a significant oversight that could so easily be avoided," he notes. "Backup, like secure builds, patch management, and access control, [are] a fundamental security measure required for cybersecurity hygiene."

Cost can be a challenge for organizations when planning for data recovery scenarios, he admits. Legal and regulatory obligations such as those related to the EU's General Data Protection Regulation can also present difficulties when it comes to backing up and archiving data, but should not be an excuse for not doing so, Chaplin says. "Backup can be challenging on a large scale, but as a basic security measure it should be at, or near, the top of the list. Ignore at your peril," he cautions.

Terence Jackson, CISO at Thycotic, says a good disaster recovery and business continuity plan should include well-defined policies and procedures. Organizations need to conduct tabletop exercises at least once a year to ensure their plan is effective. Relationships with vendors, insurance companies, forensic firms, and law enforcement should also be established in plan development.

"In the event of a ransomware attack, an organization should be able to detect the event, isolate the endpoints effected to stop the further spread, and be able to recover any data that may have been destroyed," says Jackson. On-site and off-site backup strategies should be implemented to prevent damage to data recovery efforts and enforcing least privilege will also stop some processes from executing.

Related Content:

Check out The Edge, Dark Reading's new section for features, threat data, and in-depth perspectives. Today's top story: "The Etiquette of Respecting Privacy in the Age of IoT."

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
mattsweet
100%
0%
mattsweet,
User Rank: Strategist
10/2/2019 | 8:36:23 AM
Re: SysAd 101
It amazes me this type of thing occurs in our modern day where you KNOW it (ransomware/trojan/etc.) will eventually hit you. I mean seriously, it's going to happen. Everyone should know that (and be prepared) by now. All it takes is someone to make a mistake opening something they should not be once and its game over.

I honestly cannot see why it is so difficult to at least test backups bi-annually (preferably quarterly.) There is no excuse for not testing backups, and not just your data (test firewall, router, switch, AC config, etc.)

At least a bi-annual test to show everything was backed up would have put (at most) the city in past by at most 6 months or so (instead of losing large parts of their data entirely.)

 

 
amaguhn
100%
0%
amaguhn,
User Rank: Strategist
10/1/2019 | 7:57:54 AM
SysAd 101
This is basic stuff.  Once the mess is sorted out, heads should roll... and not just the PFY or BOFH.  This strategy should have been directed from the top.  Always backup your systems and test the backups.
Exploits Released for As-Yet Unpatched Critical Citrix Flaw
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  1/13/2020
Microsoft to Officially End Support for Windows 7, Server 2008
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/13/2020
Active Directory Needs an Update: Here's Why
Raz Rafaeli, CEO and Co-Founder at Secret Double Octopus,  1/16/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Organizations have invested in a sweeping array of security technologies to address challenges associated with the growing number of cybersecurity attacks. However, the complexity involved in managing these technologies is emerging as a major problem. Read this report to find out what your peers biggest security challenges are and the technologies they are using to address them.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-15625
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A memory usage vulnerability exists in Trend Micro Password Manager 3.8 that could allow an attacker with access and permissions to the victim's memory processes to extract sensitive information.
CVE-2019-19696
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A RootCA vulnerability found in Trend Micro Password Manager for Windows and macOS exists where the localhost.key of RootCA.crt might be improperly accessed by an unauthorized party and could be used to create malicious self-signed SSL certificates, allowing an attacker to misdirect a user to phishi...
CVE-2019-19697
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
An arbitrary code execution vulnerability exists in the Trend Micro Security 2019 (v15) consumer family of products which could allow an attacker to gain elevated privileges and tamper with protected services by disabling or otherwise preventing them to start. An attacker must already have administr...
CVE-2019-20357
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A Persistent Arbitrary Code Execution vulnerability exists in the Trend Micro Security 2020 (v160 and 2019 (v15) consumer familiy of products which could potentially allow an attacker the ability to create a malicious program to escalate privileges and attain persistence on a vulnerable system.
CVE-2020-7222
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
An issue was discovered in Amcrest Web Server 2.520.AC00.18.R 2017-06-29 WEB 3.2.1.453504. The login page responds with JavaScript when one tries to authenticate. An attacker who changes the result parameter (to true) in this JavaScript code can bypass authentication and achieve limited privileges (...