Since May 7, the city of Baltimore in Maryland has been struggling to cope with a ransomware attack that has crippled its digital capabilities. Local government employees’ computers were infected with a malware that demanded $100,000 for files and access to be restored. And according to a new report by the New York Times, the National Security Agency (NSA) is somewhat to blame.
It’s no secret that the NSA developed numerous tools to exploit software and hardware vulnerabilities, allowing the agency to snoop on digital activity in the name of national security. But in 2017 an NSA leak led to one of their proprietary tools, dubbed EternalBlue, to fall into the hands of criminals and foreign states.
EternalBlue allegedly formed the basis of the infamous WannaCry and NotPetya attacks that took out virtual infrastructure across the world, including the computer systems of major companies and the UK’s National Health Service.
The 2017 leak originated from a group known only as the Shadow Brokers. According to The Times, the NSA and the FBI still do not know whether the group are made up of “foreign spies or disgruntled insiders.” The Times reports that, according to security experts briefed on Baltimore’s situation, there’s a direct link between the 2017 EternalBlue leak and the city’s current predicament.
Computers have been frozen, email services shut down, and online services used for things like health alerts or paying water bills have all been taken offline. But perhaps more worryingly, Baltimore is not alone. Cities in Texas and Pennsylvania have also been affected.
Regardless of whether or how quickly this situation is resolved, it will no doubt frustrate citizens to learn that the cyber-weapon that has caused so much damage was developed with their own tax dollars.