States Fear Rail, Traffic Chaos from Ransomware Hackers

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Rail and highway transportation systems are ripe targets for cybercriminals, according to cybersecurity experts, and many state and local government officials are only now waking up to the threat and realizing they need to beef up their defenses, reports Stateline. An attack “could create crashes or chaos,” said one expert. Two ransomware attacks in February on the Colorado Department of Transportation disrupted the agency’s operations for weeks. State officials had to shut down 2,000 computers, and transportation employees were forced to use pen and paper or their personal devices instead of their work computers. It could have been a lot worse: The Colorado hacks didn’t affect traffic signals, cameras or electronic message boards, and state information technology officials, who refused to pay the ransom, said the system had been 95 percent restored as of last week.

The Colorado incidents have transportation officials thinking more critically about system security. “DOTs are traditionally built around building and maintaining asphalt and concrete. That’s our bread and butter,” said Alan Davis, a Georgia transportation official. “But there’s also this other world that operates that infrastructure. This world is a new thing for a lot of DOTs.” A 2016 ransomware attack on San Francisco’s light rail system disrupted its computer system and email. Last fall, Sacramento’s regional transit agency was hit with a ransomware attack demanding it pay a single bitcoin, then worth about $8,000, to get control of its website back. Atlanta has been reeling from a ransomware attack in March that crippled several city offices and interrupted services.

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