Suspected Ransomware Attack Hits Auckland Transport's Hop Cards

Cyber Security Threat Summary:
Auckland Transport's Hop card system has been hit by a suspected ransomware attack, leading to disruptions in card top-up services and limited functionality at customer service centers. The attack is under investigation, and there is no indication that personal or financial data has been compromised. Commuters can still use their cards to tag on and off, but online top-ups and services on the AT website are unavailable. Existing auto top-ups will experience delays in processing, and ticket machines are only accepting cash payments due to the unavailability of Eftpos and credit card transactions. Customer service centers will have limited functionality and may only accept cash payments, while AT Hop retailers cannot top-up or load concessions onto Hop cards. Auckland Transport is taking the cyber security incident seriously and is working with expert partners to resolve the issue, with full service restoration anticipated by early next week” (1News, 2023).

Security Officer Comments:
This suspected ransomware attack on Auckland Transport's Hop card system highlights the ongoing threats faced by public transportation systems and critical infrastructure. While it's reassuring that no personal or financial data has been compromised, the disruption to card top-up services and customer service centers can cause inconvenience to commuters.

Suggested Correction(s):
Backup your data, system images, and configurations, regularly test them, and keep the backups offline: Ensure that backups are regularly tested and that they are not connected to the business network, as many ransomware variants try to find and encrypt or delete accessible backups. Maintaining current backups offline is critical because if your network data is encrypted with ransomware, your organization can restore systems.

Update and patch systems promptly: This includes maintaining the security of operating systems, applications, and firmware in a timely manner. Consider using a centralized patch management system; use a risk- based assessment strategy to drive your patch management program.

Test your incident response plan: There's nothing that shows the gaps in plans more than testing them. Run through some core questions and use those to build an incident response plan: Are you able to sustain business operations without access to certain systems? For how long? Would you turn off your manufacturing operations if business systems such as billing were offline?

Check Your Security Team's Work: Use a 3rd party pen tester to test the security of your systems and your ability to defend against a sophisticated attack. Many ransomware criminals are aggressive and sophisticated and will find the equivalent of unlocked doors.

Segment your networks: There's been a recent shift in ransomware attacks – from stealing data to disrupting operations. It's critically important that your corporate business functions and manufacturing/production operations are separated and that you carefully filter and limit internet access to operational networks, identify links between these networks and develop workarounds or manual controls to ensure ICS networks can be isolated and continue operating if your corporate network is compromised.

Regularly test contingency plans such as manual controls so that safety critical functions can be maintained during a cyber incident.

Train employees: Email remains the most vulnerable attack vector for organizations. Users should be trained how to avoid and spot phishing emails. Multi Factor authentication can help prevent malicious access to sensitive services.