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United States Crime Government Security Transportation IT

Ransomware Compromises San Francisco's Mass Transit System (cbslocal.com) 141

Buses and light rail cars make San Francisco's "Muni" fleet the seventh largest mass transit system in America. But yesterday its arrival-time screens just displayed the message "You Hacked, ALL Data Encrypted" -- and all the rides were free, according to a local CBS report shared by RAYinNYC: Inside sources say the system has been hacked for days. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has officially confirmed the hack, but says it has not affected any service... The hack affects employees, as well. According to sources, SFMTA workers are not sure if they will get paid this week. Cyber attackers also hit Muni's email systems.
Though the article claims "The transit agency has no idea who is behind it, or what the hackers are demanding in return," Business Insider reports "The attack seems to be an example of ransomware, where a computer system is taken over and the users are locked out until a certain amount of money is sent to the attacker." In addition, they're reporting the attack "reportedly included an email address where Muni officials could ask for the key to unlock its systems."

One San Francisco local told CBS, "I think it is terrifying. I really do I think if they can start doing this here, we're not safe anywhere."
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Ransomware Compromises San Francisco's Mass Transit System

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  • by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <barbarahudson&gmail,com> on Sunday November 27, 2016 @02:39PM (#53372261) Journal
    You still have to pay for buses.
  • by rbrander ( 73222 ) on Sunday November 27, 2016 @02:45PM (#53372293) Homepage

    ...I don't mean running everything on OpenBSD literally, though it's an idea. I mean, "when do we get really serious about security?" Again and again, we find major hacks that are not the result of super-hackers defeating valiant protective efforts, it's script kiddies defeating idiots who kind of deserved it. The Sony hack came with many stories of multiple executives demanding the network be multiply-holed so that they could watch their favourite videos or whatever, hit their favourite sites.

    I'm reading Andrew Ginter's book on SCADA security right now and reflecting on the insanity that there are SCADA systems, of all programming, being written on Windows, at all. There's one place the OpenBSD suggestion is quite serious. But even "OpenBSD" is just a buzzword unless you run your operations with security on your mind at all times. Schnier reduces this "mindfulness" argument to "read your logs", said it in three words.

    Most of this stuff is not actually that *hard*...it requires *diligence* and *discipline*, but not nuclear science.

    • by Nkwe ( 604125 )
      With hope, after we start backing up our data. And by backup, I mean offline backups taken at regular intervals. And by offline, I mean backups that require human intervention to be overwritten, typically some sort of removable media that requires human interaction to overwrite.

      Pretty much any systems failure (including ransomware attacks) can be mitigated with proper backups.
      • by RhettLivingston ( 544140 ) on Sunday November 27, 2016 @03:20PM (#53372479)

        A really smart attacker gets in, installs a piece of code that automatically activates if it senses that it has become active after a restoration, and waits a couple of months before they do anything overt so that they are sure they've infected the backups.

        So, for a backup to really help, it has to carefully separate code and data so that you can wipe the system, install fresh code (not from a backup), and restore data only. Also, in this case, you don't want to lose even an hours worth of data, so the data needs to be a near live off-site backup. Few backups are this good and even fewer have actually tested the restoration process.

        These attacks need to be stopped before they happen, not recovered from.

        • So, for a backup to really help, it has to carefully separate code and data

          You don't backup the code anyway - its much faster to reinstall from source. I can reinstall OpenBSD and the relevant packages in under an hour. (Yes, I have tried). It helps to keep a script to reinstall all required packages. A tape restore would take 2 1/2 hours. Of course, you may need to do that anyway if the data is compromised. (I assume the disk backups are compromised - if not, obviously it would be quicker, and less dat

      • How about if we disallow this kind of hack?

        Hunert dollas to a donut it was a click on a link in an email.

        Computers can be predictive and examine code and "think" through the consequences.

        So, no massive encryption.

        And, any attempt to do so should be halted until we get a "double vote yes" from two phones via text message.

    • This isn't about what OS you're using. All OSes are vulnerable given enough access. That's the key,,, access. Don't just lock the doors, eliminate them.

      It isn't reasonable to have all of these devices fully air-gapped from the public internet infrastructure, but it is very reasonable to have the entire system on its own VPN with NO other ports open. That combined with heavily limited access to the main servers that the devices connect to and NO installation of user tools like email clients on the servers st

      • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

        Segmentation of networks is what's needed, I hope that companies and other organizations starts to learn that having a single internal net is a hazard.

        This is standard in the military - segmented nets, "washing" computers for USB drives etc.

        • Exactly. Every service on its own net. But for the sake of cost, I'm simply saying it is just as good to virtually segment it using a VPN and closing every other port.
      • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        Re "but it is very reasonable to have the entire system on its own VPN with NO other ports open."
        The idea of all this remote automation was to remove the need for layers of staff at every location.
        A few skilled engineers can keep a networked system working all day with another set of workers for repairs.
        If too many new staff are hired to watch computers or run the network when the computers fail they might unionise.
        Think of all the wages and over time, extra pay and holidays that will have to be covere
    • get everything off the net for starters including vpns.. even that doesn't prevent airgaps from being bridged but its a good start.

    • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Sunday November 27, 2016 @03:39PM (#53372583)

      It won't help in many cases, as I think you hit upon the real problem when talking about Sony execs. The weak point is *users*, not technology. We were to switch to OpenBSD tomorrow, we'd bring the idiot users along, who would happily allow a social engineering attack to compromise their system, or who insist on policies that, for convenience, ego, laziness, costs, whatever... fatally compromise their network. The DNC lost control of a Gmail account not through some masterful OS or network-level hack, but by using some simple social engineering to capture credentials, acquired through a spearphishing attack.

      I wouldn't be surprised if this attack originated internally from a contractor or employee that was compromised, and had jack-all to do with the system's end-user-facing security itself, and will probably reveal lax or non-existent security policies internally. No system is secure when the malware has proper authentication. We really have no information yet, so it's hard to say.

      • ...or who insist on policies that, for convenience, ego, laziness, costs, whatever... fatally compromise their network.

        Imagine that. Making the computer serve its users, rather than the other way around. What kind of subversive thinking is this?

        • The computer doesn't know or care who its users are - you're just a username and password. If you don't mind security, sooner or later, some hacker will be its user, not you.

      • by fisted ( 2295862 )

        For a "closed-world" system like some city transport, running a defined set of programs that doesn't change all the time, one could feasibly get some actual security with a little hardware support, TPMish.

    • by iCEBaLM ( 34905 )

      The issue is not the technology, it's humanity. No matter how many warnings you give people, no matter how many times you tell them "THIS IS REALLY BAD, DO NOT ALLOW THIS!" they will just click OK, and in most cases after not even reading the warning.

      The problem is software has been crying wolf with inconsequential security warnings: Yeah, I get it, the SSL cert I'm using is self signed. User Account Control, and the MacOS password prompt, pops up for every little OS change, I really do trust the RDP/SSH co

    • When the secretary of state is allowed to have a private email server located in someone's closet across the country, and not only do no consequences arise but much of the computer industry says that is perfectly fine - at that point how can you possibly think that anyone will take computer security seriously from that point on?

      I am not saying this to troll; I am saying this is the gloomy reality of the situation, and I have given up on the computer industry as a whole taking security seriously.

    • It's why we need full and embarrassing disclosure [medium.com], to motivate companies to take security seriously.

      When companies start failing because of lack of security, then we will see them take it seriously. Not before.
    • I'm reading Andrew Ginter's book on SCADA security right now and reflecting on the insanity that there are SCADA systems, of all programming, being written on Windows, at all. There's one place the OpenBSD suggestion is quite serious. But even "OpenBSD" is just a buzzword unless you run your operations with security on your mind at all times. Schnier reduces this "mindfulness" argument to "read your logs", said it in three words.

      I think it is interesting the "lessons" people chose to extract from events.

    • by wjcofkc ( 964165 )
      If we moved to OpenBSD en-mass then we would only discover is a much a problem as everything else in its own ways. That is a good book though and yes I do use OpenBSD. Truth of the matter is, we need a radical new paradigm in computer that neither one of us can think of.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Sunday November 27, 2016 @03:06PM (#53372415) Homepage

    disclosure: i worked as a contractor for LA Metro.
     
     

    its arrival-time screens just displayed the message "You Hacked, ALL Data Encrypted"

    not a hard feat to pull off. the data thats shown on these screens is either dynamically generated by track signal data thats processed through SCADA and into a windows system, or you can issue an override screen for construction/etc...removing this screen should not be hard.

    and all the rides were free

    there is no magic button to make all rides free centrally. This was likely done by Muni as a last ditch effort because their card transaction databases were offline or the system that handles accounting for this database was offline due to the hack. Muni simply put their turnstiles into bypass mode and sent their fare enforcement officers home for the day. it means when they run their fare-jump report for the month, theyll have to adjust for the days they had open fare points.

    "The transit agency has no idea who is behind it, or what the hackers are demanding in return,"

    nothing. chances are great they didnt expect to get this far. its possible the warning on muni transit screens is a side-effect of a wallpaper or start screen that machines are now forced into depending on what model of annunciation system they purchased. if thats the case, reimaging the screens will take 2-3 hours and can all be done centrally. as for the accounting database for oyster/muni cards, thats an easy restore from backup or calling transactions back from their VAN provider (value added networks, generally operated by IBM or Cisco.)

    as for people worrying about getting paid, this happens a lot. ive once shut down live map systems on a handful of busses to upgrade the video drivers, and by the end of the day there was a rumor spreading that the payroll department was hacked. Drivers/operators are not brilliant minds.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I pay taxes ***OUT THE FUCKING NOSE*** in San Francisco, so the idea of **PAYING** for **PUBLIC** transportation is anathema to me.

    I've been riding free for the past two days and I **salute the persons responsible for this***.

    • Hope you'll be happy when they shut the whole thing down. You may pay a lot of taxes; I don't know. But taxes alone don't cover the cost of the public transit.
  • I don't endorse this sort of thing but all your IT people told you it was going to happen.

    They told you the the days of living with buggy security and security through obscurity are over and that you needed to replace your equipment/system/infrastructure (which would have cost a lot of money) and you didn't do it.

    I guarantee you at least one person quit or was fired.

    Voila.. you get what you paid for.

  • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Sunday November 27, 2016 @03:13PM (#53372453)

    BART gets pranked.

  • by Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Sunday November 27, 2016 @04:05PM (#53372685) Homepage

    I don't care how clever you all think you are, you cannot design a system that cannot be hacked.
    We've gone far too far, hooking up control and command to the internet. We did it to fire people and save money, or at least divert the money once given to ticket takers to computer companies.
    So, this is what the future is.

    • by Stonefish ( 210962 ) on Sunday November 27, 2016 @04:43PM (#53372847)

      You're flat out wrong. Provably secure system exist and have existed for decades. Go to, or go back to Uni and learn a little. The fact that it's much cheaper to develop systems which aren't is a design choice. The people making those design choices should be held accountable for the decisions, no ifs, no buts.
      Heads on sticks is the answer, who was responsible for implementing this system on Windows? Who was responsible for not patching the system? and who was the clown that provided vectors from the Internet to this system?

    • Yes and no. There are ways to secure things, it is just hard. It also makes it an order of magnitude more difficult to have enterprise resource management/planning systems that work and improve efficiency.

      Not necessarily bad things.

      But, things like online banking will destroy us.
  • SF...hmmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HiThere ( 15173 ) <charleshixsn@ear ... t ['nk.' in gap]> on Sunday November 27, 2016 @04:11PM (#53372715)

    Isn't this the place that arrested its systems administrator because he wanted to keep the system password secret?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 27, 2016 @04:46PM (#53372853)

    "All your bus are belong to us"

  • All it takes is one moron to click a phishing email link, executing the malware. Apparently, someone with privileges clicked the link. As in someone with enough access to production systems to infect the entire network. An IT worker got infected and using that IT workers user account the entire system was infected.

    This is why those who are serious about security do annoying things like make IT workers use a different account with admin privileges that cannot actually be logged on directly but can execute

  • When will this world ever learn that you just don't rely on one system. You have a backup system, consisting of paper, people, and phones. Our single dependency on the Web is showing again!!

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