On Black Friday, a hacker hit San Francisco’s light rail agency with a ransomware attack. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending: the attack ended in failure. So why did it raise the hairs on the back of our collective neck? Because we fear that next time a critical infrastructure system is attacked, it could just as easily end in tragedy. But it doesn’t have to if organizations with Industrial Control Systems (ICS)  heed three key lessons from San Francisco’s ordeal.

First, let’s look at what happened: On Friday, Nov. 25, a hacker infected the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s (SMFTA) network with ransomware that encrypted data on 900 office computers, spreading through the system’s Windows operating system. As a precautionary measure, the third party that operates SMFTA’s ticketing system shut down payment kiosks to prevent the malware from spreading. Rather than stop service, SMFTA opened the gates and offered free rides for much of the weekend.

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