In the past week, we reported that the Baltimore City government was crippled by the attack of cryptocurrency ransomware, RobinHood, which infected computers associated with servers that were connected to the city’s communication network and effectively rendered the network paralysed.
As of Wedsenday, all real estate transactions have been a halted because the title insurance companies do not have access to the communications network of the city servers for verification of properties that are free of liens to create a new deed. The attack has also made the collection of transfer and property taxes and water bills much difficult.
The operations manager at Broadview Title, Amy Caplan, said that the servers that hold critical real estate data had crashed on Friday. After that, on Monday, the title companies began issuing notices instructing their agents to stop all transactions in the city.
“It’s crippling the entire city for sure,” Caplan said. “There’s just no resolution. It seems like there’s no contingency plan in place for Baltimore city.”
Real estate data shows that more than 1,500 sales are pending across the city of Baltimore. the owner of The Breeden Group, Realtor R.J.Breeden, said that the attack of the ransomware is a loss of confidence in city officials. Breeden warned: “the entire real estate industry has come to a standstill.”
First American Title Insurance Co. instructed agents on Monday to stop all transactions.
“While the City is aware of the problems created by the inability to accept or process real property sales and loan transactions and is working on a solution, it is unable to give a time frame on when it will be able to re-open. We have been told to check in weekly,” the company wrote.
“We understand that the situation presents difficulties for our agents, but feel that under the circumstances, declining to insure until systems are back in full service is the only way to approach the problem.”
The ransomware was discovered last Tuesday. The hackers demanded cryptocurrency as the preferred payment to unlock the servers.
According to another unnamed official, it could still take weeks in order to restore the servers back to normal.
“This is a very unfortunate situation, but other cities have had this exact circumstance happen,” said Cindy Ariosa, treasurer for Bright MLS, the region’s multiple listing service for real estate. “It’s a sign of the times.”
The corporate counsel for Bay County Settlements Inc., Spencer Stephens said that due to the hack many transactions are being delayed this week.
“If you’re buying and you gave notice at your apartment and you’re planning on moving at the end of May, that timing is in question,” Stephens said. “If you’re a seller, it’s a problem because you want to move to your new house, and you want to get the funds out of our old home and make moving arrangements.”
The attack of the ransomware in Baltimore reveals how officials of the city have no plan of backup in the event of a cyber attack. If the problem persists even for a few more weeks, it could potentially cripple the local economy of Baltimore.