Virus affecting Baltimore police computer system

It's unclear how extensive the virus has spread through the department's network, though officials said "hundreds" of computers could be infected

By Justin George
The Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — A virus has slowed Baltimore police's computer system but police say it doesn't affect any dispatch capabilities or emergency functions.

The virus known as "W32.Qakbot" was discovered recently as information technology workers were trying to figure out what has been slowing the department's computers for months, police spokesman Capt. John Kowalczyk said.

According to Symantec, a company that creates antivirus products, the virus "downloads additional files, steals information, and opens a back door on the compromised computer." It's unclear how extensive the virus has spread through the department's network, though officials said "hundreds" of computers could be infected. Police have hired a consultant to help assess and repair the damage, Kowalczyk said.

"We're going to investigate to the best of our ability how it happened," Kowalczyk said. "Determine all of the vulnerabilities that we had."

Police believe a lack of proper software updates and other checkups allowed the virus to take root, Kowalczyk said. Police do not suspect that any information has been compromised or stolen, he said.

Last week, Kowalczyk confirmed that information technology director Andrew Nebus no longer worked for the department but did not elaborate why. Kowalczyk on Monday did not say if Nebus' departure had anything to do with the computer problems.

Reached Monday, Nebus said he was "not privy" to the department's current computer problems. He said it was no secret that police's IT department has been underfunded, something Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts has publicly pledged to improve.

Nebus has been replaced by Andrew Jaffee, an employee in the Mayor's Office of Information Technology.

Kowalczyk said "our ability to do our jobs ... has not been compromised in any way, shape or form."

But in a memo to members of the NorthEast Citizens Patrol, police's Northeastern district commander Maj. Rich Worley said viruses have been slowing his ability to respond to emails and "are causing issues with our computer aided dispatch system, as well."

Worley also noted "there are no safety issues or delays in dispatching the calls" but the virus has made it difficult for him to retrieve information.

Copoyright 2015 The Baltimore Sun

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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