Update: San Francisco MTA hacker allegedly hacked by a security researcher

san francisco mta ransomware attack version 1480301630 airbnb
Wasin Pummarin/123RF
In recent years, ransomware attacks and other forms of malicious hacking have become a common occurrence, with both individuals and organizations falling victim on a regular basis. Over the weekend, the San Francisco Municipal Transport Authority (SFMTA) learned just how real the threat of being targeted has become.

It is thought that ransomware was used to attack the SFMTA’s network of computers. Officials were forced to offer free travel to customers, shutting down ticket kiosks and opening up fare gates, according to a report from Engadget.

Database servers, email, staff training, and payroll systems were all affected by this broad attack — apparently, over 2,000 of the 8,656 computers that are used by the SFMTA were hit. Monitors displayed the message, “you hacked, ALL data encrypted,” and instructed the user to send a ransom of $73,000 worth of bitcoin to a Russian email address.

At present, it is difficult to discern exactly how the attack was carried out. Experts suspect that phishing tactics were used to make an employee unknowingly introduce code to the network of computers, either through a phony website or an email.

Normal service was resumed on Sunday morning, when payment systems were once again activated and rides were no longer free. It’s worth noting that trains weren’t affected at any point — it was just the network of computers used to facilitate the service, and even so the attack managed to cause a major headache for officials, even if it was ultimately a rather brief outage.

In the latest twist in this already bizarre turn of events, the alleged hacker behind the attack has himself been hacked, KrebsOnSecurity reports. As a result, both the hacker’s identity as well as information about victims’ of the initial breach may have been compromised. On Monday, a security researcher reached out to Krebs, claiming to have “compromised the extortionist’s inbox by guessing the answer to his secret question, which then allowed him to reset the attacker’s email password.”

If there was ever any doubt, this scenario should demonstrate how ill-equipped a major organization like the SFMTA might be in the face of an attempted hack. This kind of threat is only going to become more common in years to come, and there could be grave consequences if the proper preparations aren’t put in place.

Article originally published on 11-28-2016. Updated on 11-29-2016 by Lulu Chang: Added news that the SFMTA hacker has been hacked by a security researcher. 

Emerging Tech

The U.S. Army is building a giant VR battlefield to train soldiers virtually

Imagine if the U.S. Army was able to rehearse battlezone scenarios dozens, or even hundreds, or times before settling foot on actual terrain. Thanks to virtual reality, that's now a possibility.
Computing

Own an Asus computer? Malware might be hiding in your system

If you own an Asus computer, your system might have been infected by malware distributed from the tool you typically use to update the BIOS and install other security patches, according to a new report by cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab.
Mobile

5G's arrival is transforming tech. Here's everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Computing

Don’t be fooled! Study exposes most popular phishing email subject lines

Phishing emails are on the rise and a new study out by the cybersecurity company Barracuda has exposed some of the most common phishing email subject lines used to exploit businesses. 
Computing

Keep your laptop battery in tip-top condition with these handy tips

Learn how to care for your laptop's battery, how it works, and what you can do to make sure yours last for years and retains its charge. Check out our handy guide for valuable tips, no matter what type of laptop you have.
Computing

Is it worth spending more for the Surface Pro, or is the Surface Go good enough?

The Surface Go vs. Surface Pro — which is better? While the higher price tag of one might make you think it's an easy choice, a deeper dive into what each offers makes it a closer race than you might assume.
Computing

Hands-on with Microsoft Chromium Edge: A first look at the early release

We installed a preview of Edge Chromium, and there's now a lot that makes it feel Chrome, but there are also some similarities to the old Edge. So, is the new Chromium Edge the best browser ever? Here's a hands-on look.
Computing

Amazon sale knocks $200 off the price of 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

If you always wanted to buy a MacBook Pro but found it a bit too expensive, now is your chance to save. A base version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is currently on sale at Amazon for $1,600.
Computing

Apple’s 4K 21.5-inch iMac is now $200 off if you pre-order it

Apple's new iMacs are now available and if you pre-order one from B&H you can get the midrange version for $200. That's a near 20-percent saving on one of the most competitive configurations.
Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s latest breakthrough could make DNA-based data centers possible

Could tomorrow's data centers possibly store information in the form of synthetic DNA? Researchers from Microsoft have successfully encoded the word "hello" into DNA and then back again.
Computing

The new Windows 10 File Explorer could look like this in 2020

Microsoft may update Windows 10's File Explorer to adopt Fluent Design principles in an upcoming 2020 update. A report suggests that we'll get our first glimpse at the new-look explorer in upcoming Windows Insider builds.
Computing

DisplayPort and HDMI both connect to screens, but here's how they're different

HDMI and DisplayPort are two of the most popular connectors for hooking up consoles, gaming PCs, TVs, and monitors, but which is best? To find out, we pitted HDMI vs. DisplayPort and compared their best and worst features.
Computing

Get a new 2018 Apple MacBook Air for $1,000 with Amazon’s latest sale

Online retailer Amazon is currently running a discount on select models of the MacBook Air 2018. You can bring one home starting at $1,000, a full $200 off the usual selling price.
Computing

In 2019, laptops are better than ever. Here are the best of the best

The best laptop should be one that checks all the boxes: Great battery life, beautiful design, and top-notch performance. Our picks for the best laptops you can buy do all that — and throw in some extra features while they're at it.