|Train arriving at West Portal Station, San Francisco. Image credit: Flickr|
Last Friday evening, transit passengers in San Francisco received free fare. The open gates were not a gift from Muni Metro, but a precautionary response to a cyber attack that disabled many employee computers. An anonymous hacker sent ransomware, malicious software, via email and demanded $73,000 in ransom to have the computers unlocked. It wasn’t until Monday morning that most systems were back up and running. Because they had a backup system, the agency was able to shut down critical machines and work with the Department of Homeland Security to contain the attack. Although confidential customer information and the computers that control trains were never compromised, the attack is an example of the cyber threats that modern transportation systems face. Critical infrastructure is often a target, making public agencies especially susceptible to similar attacks. IBM has identified the transportation sector as a key cyber target due to its increasing reliance on computer-based control. Friday’s incident isn’t the first, and likely won’t be the last of its kind.
For more information on the attack and how this type of cyber crime happens, read the article by the Tribune News Service.