Google cut off Gmail accounts in the Baltimore city government this week, following a ransomware attack, then restored them.
The accounts had been set up as a workaround while the government recovers from the attack, and Google’s security system was triggered by the large number of new sign-ups, according to The Baltimore Sun.
City officials talked to Google, and the issue was resolved.
Emails to several officials at their workaround addresses were turned back with the message: “The email account that you tried to reach is disabled.”
A Google spokesperson told the Verge: “We have restored access to the Gmail accounts for the Baltimore city officials. Our automated security systems disabled the accounts due to the bulk creation of multiple consumer Gmail accounts from the same network.”
The city was hit by a ransomware attack on May 7, taking out baltimorecity.gov email addresses and the city’s online payment system, while locking official files, the continues. The attackers demanded ransom in the form of bitcoin.
Blocked from signing on to their official Gmail addresses, city staffers created new ones.
Law enforcement officials are investigating the attack. It may take months to fully recover.
This is one of several disruptions to hit Baltimore, including a mayoral resignation.
J. Eduardo Campos, co-author with Erica W. Campos of From Problem Solving to Solution Design: Turning Ideas into Actions, comments that "the key problem in cybersecurity these days is that professionals dealing with the respective crises sometimes lack the skills needed in this ever increasing threat scenario."
Campos adds, "In this case of Google cancelling emails in the City of Baltimore, whose leadership was trying to circumvent a ransomware attack that crippled the City’s systems, it’s clear that nobody correctly involved or communicated either party. This is more typical than it should be. Cybersecurity professionals sometimes do not have the communications skills much needed in this new world. You must collaborate and communicate while you deal with the crisis, it’s imperative that we all work together."