The website of Dublin’s tram system was taken offline recently after hackers defaced the site and demanded a ransom be paid.

While the attack appears to have been carried out by almost stereotypical youngsters it illustrates how a simple hack can have damaging real-world consequences.

Visitors to the Luas website, the name of the Dublin tram system service, use it for travel information, parking and permit information and fare updates.

A notice on the website said:
“You are hacked… some time ago i wrote that you have serious security holes you didn’t reply… the next time someone talks to you, press the reply button you must pay 1 bitcoin in 5 days otherwise I will publish all data and send emails to your users….”

One bitcoin is approximately €3,300. The sense of grievance in the message and the fact that the ransom is relatively low suggests a youngish hacker rather than a professional cybercriminal.

One of the characteristics of many ‘young’ hackers is a desire for their skills to be acknowledged. In contrast, hard core cyber villains are happy to fly under the radar.

The reference to publishing data suggests that information was stolen from the service operator, Transdev Ireland.

Thankfully Luas is an information site only. Customers buy tickets on a different site which doesn’t appear to have been compromised so it’s unlikely customer and financial information has been hacked.

San Francisco attack

In late 2016, San Francisco’s transport system, known as Muni, was hit by a ransomware attack that crippled ticketing machines. As a result the operator was forced into offering free rides to passengers.

More than 2,000 computer systems at the public transport agency were believed to have been hit, including Windows workstations, servers and ticketing machines.

It’s believed that the transport system was hit by the ransomware after an employee downloaded an infected torrent file.

A torrent file typically downloads data from multiple locations at the same time. They are known for sometimes having malware inserted in some of the data sources.

The Muni transport system was able to get up and running again by restoring its systems using backed-up data, which illustrates just how important data back-ups are.