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San Francisco Public Transport hacked in a “Watch Dogs 2“ Way

Over the weekend, the San Francisco Municipal Transport Authority fell victim to a ransomware attack which affected its public transport vehicles. According to a report, authorities offered travel to customers because the attack targeted the SFMTA’s computer systems. Reportedly, this ransomware attack affected over 2,000 of the 8,656 SFMTA computers. This situation proves once again that we live in the era of technology. With it come hackers and subsequently hacker attacks to which more and more people and institutions are falling victim.

A ransomware attack

Reportedly, the attack affected their database servers, email, staff training and even payroll systems. Moreover, the computer monitors were all displaying the “you hacked, ALL data encrypted” message. The hackers were asking for $73 000 in bitcoins which SFMTA needed to send to a Russian address. According to cyber experts, it is a possibility that the attackers used some phishing tactics in order to make an employer introduce a code into the system without his knowledge. The employer might have done this through a fake website or email address. However, this is just a supposition because until now nobody has found the exact method of action.


The Watch Dogs 2 coincidence

There is a rather unusual coincidence between this ransomware attack and Watch Dogs 2. The video game about hacking came out about a week ago. The game is the second in the Watch Dogs series. It came out on Playstation 4 and Xbox One. The Canadian company Ubisoft created it. Even the city in which the game’s events are taking place is the same: San Francisco. Moreover, the way the group of hackers called DedSec are acting in-game is shockingly similar to what happened over the weekend. Mark Buckley, a UK-based community manager for a videogame sports group tweeted

“Man… the Watch Dogs 2 marketing campaign has stepped up.”

It was obviously a joke referring to the fact that the attack is so similar to the ones in the game that it almost seems a marketing campaign. Video game blog Kotaku also wrote an article detailing the real life ransomware attack and if it draws inspiration from the Watch Dogs 2 video game. According to them, it is extremely timely to hack into a public transportation system in order to give people free rides during a longer holiday weekend. It all just fits very well.

Ubisoft is amused

The company which produced the video game seems to be enjoying the buzz created following this situation. Ubisoft Director of Public Relations Michael Beadle actually wrote a humorous message in which he says that

“Neither Watch Dogs 2’s Marcus Holloway or DedSec are responsible for any hack of any public transportation system in San Francisco.”

On Sunday morning, the transportation service came back to normal. The payment systems started working again and people could not enjoy free rides anymore. All in all, the attack did not affect the vehicles, only the computer system. Still, even if now things may seem rather amusing, officials and companies should all learn from this. They should prepare because these kinds of cyber-attacks will only become more frequent from now on.

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About Donna Griggs


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