San Francisco is the latest city to be targeted by cybercriminals using ransomware, software that hijacks computer systems and holds them hostage until victims pay a ransom or restore the data on their own, reports Stateline. The city’s Municipal Transportation Agency was struck Friday by malware that disrupted its computer systems and email. While no customer privacy was compromised and transit services weren’t affected, officials turned off ticket machines and fare gates in subway stations until Sunday morning as a precaution.
Transportation officials say they never considered paying the ransom, and that backup systems allowed them to get most of their computers up and running Monday. Cybercriminals are preying on local governments, hospitals, and police departments, forcing officials to decide whether to meet the demands or risk losing their data. Local and state governments were hit by as many as 450 infections a month between October and May, says Brian Calkin of the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, a federally funded group that tracks cybersecurity issues. The infectious software usually gets launched when a computer user unknowingly clicks on an email with an attachment or link to a website. Once it is opened, it gets lodged in the computer system and locks files, encrypting them so they can’t be accessed. The hacker usually gives the victim a certain period to pay a ransom to unlock it and open their files or risk losing the data.