line of buses

Digging out hidden malware in San Antonio’s transit system

As cities connect more people, devices and sensors to their public transportation networks to improve efficiency and transparency, they also create more attack vectors for hackers. Even computer systems equipped with every recommended cybersecurity technology can't detect all threats, which explains why cybersecurity startup Infocyte found malware on San Antonio's mass transit computer systems.

Infocyte discovered the malware when it conducted an assessment of 950 workstations and servers on San Antonio's VIA Metropolitan Transit’s primary IT network.

VIA board member Tex Morgan, who suggested hiring Infocyte, noted the agency does "have a lot of customer data and personal information," according to a report in the San Antonio Business Journal. VIA serves over 150,000 people daily with a fleet of over 500 buses and streetcars and has 2,000 employees.

"We see a lot of networks, and I’d say VIA had a good standard build. They had enterprise-grade security software already in place to defend themselves," Infocyte CEO Chris Gerritz told the Journal.  The VIA network had firewalls, anti-virus software and an IT department monitoring the system.

Infocyte’s HUNT software found five variants of known malware and backdoors, plus an additional 15 potentially unwanted programs across 25 systems. Among the issues found were a Trojan that had been undetected for two years, a fake antivirus Trojan and several unauthorized remote-access tools.

“In this case, the threats that we found were not causing a disruption of services immediately, but they were things that could potentially become so,” Gerrtiz said.

VIA IT staff were able to remove the malware and secure the network.

This isn’t the only instance of transportation agencies being hacked. Earlier this year electronic construction signs in San Antonio and Austin were hacked, replacing Department of Transportation information.

And several years ago presenters at Def Con demonstrated how to hack subway cards to get free rides for life.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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