Sometimes life imitates art, and sometimes it's basically the opening gambit in a techno-thriller movie.
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said on Monday it had contained a cyber attack, which disrupted its ticketing systems and forced it to offer free service to some customers during the Thanksgiving weekend.
The agency, known widely as Muni, said it was the victim of a ransomware attack on Friday that affected internal computer systems including email, but had no impact on safe operation of transit services.
The agency disabled fare gates from Friday to Sunday “as a precaution to minimize possible impacts to our customers,” Muni spokesman Paul Rose said in an email on Monday.
Muni said on its website that “the situation is now contained and we have prioritized restoring our systems to be fully operational.
It was the latest high-profile intrusion with ransomware, a pernicious type of computer virus that scrambles data on infected machines, sometimes making it impossible for organizations to deliver critical services.
Attacks have increased sharply over the past year, with criminals targeting hospitals, police departments and other providers of critical services in the United States and Europe. Criminals typically charge a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars or more to provide digital keys that restore systems to normal.
U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation spokesman Prentice Danner said the agency was “in contact with Muni officials,” though he declined to say if the FBI had launched a formal investigation.
Ransomware is certainly nothing new, but taking down a major city's public transit system is the kind of thing information security experts have been warning us about for years. Expect a lot more of this in the future, and soon.
In fact, if I were a budding Mr. Robot type, there's a certain 45th President of the US who has commercial and corporate interests all over the world that are exactly the kind of high-profile targets I'd be very, very, very interested in.