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What We’re Following
Hack job: Three weeks ago, the city of Baltimore got locked out of its computers. In a ransomware attack, hackers are demanding $100,000 in Bitcoin to regain access to multiple city servers (Baltimore Sun). As a result, the city has reverted back to working in person for some city services, creating manual workarounds for real estate transactions, for example. But other systems remain frozen, including a portal for water bill payments and government email and phones. The attack is one of more than 20 made on municipalities this year (NPR).
The New York Times reports that the hackers used a malware tool developed by the NSA that got dumped online in April 2017. That tool has since boomeranged back to other American towns and cities, such as Allentown, Pennsylvania; San Antonio, Texas; and perhaps most notably, Atlanta, Georgia. Because ransomware automatically scans for vulnerabilities, the attack doesn’t appear to be specifically targeted at Charm City (which has suffered a number of other challenges recently). But the city’s older operating systems and tangled networks were particularly vulnerable: Baltimore spends about half of what similar-sized cities spend on IT. “There are things I’ve looked at across the city’s systems that look like they were summer projects by interns,” Ars Technica’s Sean Gallagher told Baltimore Brew last week. And, as researchers found last year, local governments are nearly constantly under cyberattack, and often they don’t even know it.
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Rural counties aren’t really in decline (Mother Jones)
How a large-scale effort to register black voters led to a crackdown in Tennessee (Washington Post)
When landlords weren’t listening, these tenants went after their bankers instead (Next City)
Inside Europe’s most accessible city (The Guardian)