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Pittsburgh has plan to prevent cyberattack that hobbled Baltimore | TribLIVE.com
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Pittsburgh has plan to prevent cyberattack that hobbled Baltimore

Paul Guggenheimer
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Could the cyber attack that crippled city services in Baltimore happen in Pittsburgh?

A plan is in place to prevent such an attack, Tim McNulty, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s spokesman, said Tuesday.

“We can’t really say what our defenses are. We don’t want to tip our hand, but we have a fulltime staff that watches out for that 24/7,” said McNulty. “Occasionally, we’ll work with outside organizations, CMU and others, to entice people to try and hack into the system to see if there are any vulnerabilities. And, if we find anything, we work to address those.”

Anonymous hackers breached the city of Baltimore’s servers two weeks ago, and demanded 13 bitcoins, currently worth about $100,000, to stop holding the city hostage. Currently, the online aspects of running the city are shut down, including government emails, and payments to city departments. Baltimore Mayor Jack Young has said there is no way the city will pay.

The situation is similar to the one faced by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. in late 2016 when hackers demanded a $1,400 ransom in bitcoin. In that case, the ransom was paid and the system was restored.

In March of 2017, the computer system of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus was infected by hackers who held it hostage and demanded 28 bitcoin, a $30,000 ransom at that time. The Senate Democrats ended up taking the FBI’s advice against paying the ransom and instead spent $703,697 on a rebuild and enhancement of the system underwritten by taxpayers.

“Threats happen to every large organization that exists, whether it’s in the public or private sector,” said McNulty. “We know these threats are out there and we’re constantly working on guarding and patching up the system.”

Paul Guggenheimer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or [email protected].

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