Creative Commons photo by Flickr user Michael Ocampo.

Image via Flickr user Michael Ocampo CC.

SF Muni Attack Latest to Show Critical Infrastructure Risk

The cyberattack on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is a much needed reminder that critical infrastructure, both large and small, remains a target and is susceptible to ransomware. IBM has named transportation as a key cybertarget, given that the sector is increasingly relying on computer-based control, and yet security is such that hackers can cause a lot of damage with comparative ease. Just this summer, malware was found on San Antonio’s mass transit computer systems.

Clearly, public transportation will remain a key battleground in cyberwarfare going forward.

Reduce Risk with Awareness and Collaboration

In most cases of malware, the root cause is as simple as human error. One of the reasons we incorporate Awareness as a key principle of Lean Security is that it’s not enough to have a one-hour yearly employee training on passwords. In a situation like this, it’s usually a person clicking on a link they don’t realize is harmful or plugging an unauthorized USB fob into a computer. Protecting against cyberthreats, particularly when you’re dealing with something as critical as public transportation, requires a level of employee awareness that goes far beyond passwords. Employees can only be vigilant if they know what they’re looking for.

The San Francisco transit attack also shows the importance of early and consistent cooperation among all stakeholders in an organization, from operations to security. When we examine Lean Security through the lens of cooperation, we see time and time again that a cooperative culture, which emphasizes shared responsibility for security, can reduce the impact of these sorts of attacks. Protocols can be put into place to reduce the chances of malware getting on a network in the first place, and they most certainly can contain the spread and reduce the collateral damage.

Critical infrastructure organizations simply cannot leave themselves this vulnerable — there’s way too much at stake.