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Ransomware Attack Cripples US City of Baltimore

The city officials have said that they would not pay the ransom demand. The IT department is trying to overcome the situation

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A ransomware attack has crippled the US city of Baltimore that has brought all of its email and online payment gateways to a standstill. The hackers are demanding $76,280 in exchange for freeing all the city’s systems.

The tool that has paralysed the city is a National Security Agency creation called “EternalBlue”, which has been used in other high-profile cyber attacks including “Wannacry” in May 2017, The Verge reported on Saturday.

Security experts suggest that hackers used “EternalBlue” to exploit a vulnerability in some versions of Windows XP and Vista systems, allowing an external party to execute remote commands on their target.

According to The Baltimore Sun, a ransom note left on a Baltimore city computer identified the ransomware as RobbinHood and demanded a payment of three Bitcoins (equivalent to $17,600 at current prices) per system, or 13 Bitcoins (worth $76,280) to re-store the entire city’s systems.

“We won’t talk more, all we know is money! Hurry up!” the note read.

Cyber attack has effected millions of people globally. Wikimedia Commons
Cyber attack has effected millions of people globally. Wikimedia Commons

In April 2017, the tool was leaked by hacking group The ShadowBrokers and within a day Microsoft had released a patch to fix the exploit.

However, just patching a system does not mean total closure of vulnerabilities.

Since May 7, Baltimore residents have been dealing with the cyber attack. All of their systems are shut, hindering bill payments and day-to-day expenditures.

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The city officials have said that they would not pay the ransom demand. The IT department is trying to overcome the situation.

The city has begun to implement some workarounds, manually processing real estate transactions and setting up a Gmail system for city workers which Google initially shut down but has since restored, the report added. (IANS)

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US: Infections from Three Sexually Transmitted Diseases Hit New Highs for Fifth Consecutive Year

The infection rate rose 3 percent from 2017

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US, Infections, Sexually
FILE - A billboard above a gas station, April 1, 2016, promotes testing for sexually transmitted diseases. VOA

U.S. infections from three sexually transmitted diseases have risen for the fifth consecutive year. US.

More than 1.7 million cases of chlamydia (kluh-MID’-ee-uh) were reported last year. The infection rate rose 3 percent from 2017.

It’s the most ever reported in a year, though the trend is mainly attributed to increased testing.

About 580,000 gonorrhea (gah-nuh-REE’-uh) cases were reported. That’s the highest number since 1991. The rate rose 5 percent. Scientists worry antibiotic resistance may be a factor.

US, Infections, Sexually
More than 1.7 million cases of chlamydia (kluh-MID’-ee-uh) were reported last year. Pixabay

And the syphilis rate rose 15 percent. About 35,000 cases of the most contagious forms of the disease were reported — also the most since 1991.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the numbers Tuesday.

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The increases coincided with public health funding cuts and clinic closures. (VOA)