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New York transit company breached as cyberattacks surge in US

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A passenger sits with a laptop computer aboard a subway train in Manhattan, New York on June 2, 2021. Domestic media reported that hackers infiltrated the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's networks in April 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Hackers have infiltrated the computer systems of the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), one of the largest public transportation networks in the US.

The MTA said it was alerted to the attack in April by the FBI and other federal agencies, and that the hacking was thwarted before any data was compromised.

The breach involved three of the agency's 18 computer systems.

The New York Times said the breach appeared to be carried out by a group of hackers “believed to be backed by the Chinese government,” citing cybersecurity firm FireEye. The MTA, however, made no mention of potential link with China.

The transit’s chief technology officer Rafail Portnoy said, “The MTA's existing multi-layered security systems worked as designed, preventing spread of the attack, and we continue to strengthen these comprehensive systems and remain vigilant, as cyberattacks are a growing global threat.”

According to transit officials, the breach was the third — and most significant — cyberattack on the transit network, North America’s largest, by hackers thought to be connected to foreign governments in recent years.

The hacking came amid a rise in cyberattacks against US infrastructure's computer networks, with a high-profile ransomware attack shutting down critical US infrastructure in the past month.

Colonial Pipeline, the largest US transporter of refined fuels, was forced to temporarily halt shipments after a major cyberattack last month, leading to gas crisis across the Southeast.

Earlier this week, JBS, the world's  largest meat supplier, was also forced to shutter nine beef plants due to a similar attack.

The Joe Biden administration pinned the Colonial and JBS breaches on “cybercriminals in Russia,” without providing little evidence.

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said this week that Washington has been talking to Moscow about the JBS hack, warning Russia against harbour “ransomware criminals.”


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