San Francisco Transit Police Confidential Files Leaked By Hackers

By   Adeola Adegunwa
Writer , Informationsecuritybuzz | Jan 11, 2023 10:01 pm PST

The recent cyber-attack on the San Francisco Transit Police Department (SFTP) has highlighted the critical need for robust cyber security measures in the public sector. The attack, which took place over the weekend, targeted the department’s computer systems. This resulted in the unauthorized access and release of sensitive files containing personal information of both police officers and members of the public.

The SFTP has stated that they are working closely with other law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to identify those responsible for the attack and to determine the extent of the information that was leaked. According to NBC News, the hacked files contained approximately 120,000 files with detailed allegations of child abuse, victims’ names and birthdates, and, in some cases, adult descriptions and the claimed abuse facts.

Personal Information Compromised

The extent of the information that was leaked and the number of individuals affected are still being determined as the investigation continues. However, it is clear that the attack has the potential to impact a significant number of individuals, both within the department and among the general public. The SFTP has not yet released the full extent of the information that was leaked, but it is confirmed that the leaked files contain the personal data of both police officers and public members.

This can include names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and other sensitive information that can be used for identity theft or fraud. The department advises individuals to monitor their personal information for any suspicious activity and to take appropriate steps to protect themselves if their data is compromised.

This may include regularly checking financial statements, bank accounts, and credit card activity and monitoring credit reports for any unauthorized activity. It is also recommended to use strong and distinct passwords for all online accounts and to be careful when clicking on links or opening attachments in unsolicited emails.

Cybersecurity Challenges For Public Sector

This attack on the SFTP highlights the ongoing challenges public sector organizations face in terms of cybersecurity. Public sector organizations tend to have constrained budgets and often need help attracting top cybersecurity talent. Additionally, public sector organizations may not be able to pay ransoms that malicious actors often demand, putting them at a higher risk for a breach.

This is because public sector organizations rely on taxpayer money, unlike private organizations. They may not have the same financial capabilities as private companies to pay off attackers, so they are often targeted more frequently. This emphasizes the need for public sector organizations to have a detailed cybersecurity program in place.

Lack of Cybersecurity Measures

Unfortunately, many public sector organizations still need the proper cybersecurity measures to protect against such attacks. Some of these measures include the following:

  • Inadequate budget allocation: Many public sector organizations need help with budget constraints which can result in insufficient funding for cybersecurity measures. As a result, organizations may need help to afford security tools or staff to protect their systems and data adequately.
  • Reliance on legacy systems: Many public sector organizations still use legacy systems that may be difficult and costly to update, leaving them vulnerable to known security risks and exploits.
  • Lack of emphasis on cybersecurity: Public sector organizations may need to place more emphasis on cybersecurity and may need a dedicated cybersecurity team or department. Organizations are at a higher risk of being breached without dedicated staff to manage and maintain security measures.
  • Cybersecurity not being a core function of the organization: Cybersecurity is often seen as an additional function for many public sector organizations when it should be a core aspect of the organization’s operation. Organizations must make cyber security a core function to prioritize it and allocate the necessary resources to protect against cyber-attacks adequately.
  • Insufficient employee training: Many public sector organizations fail to provide cybersecurity training to their employees, resulting in a lack of awareness and understanding of cybersecurity risks. Without proper training, employees may unknowingly open up their systems to cybercriminals.
  • Inadequate incident response planning: Many public sector organizations need to have adequate incident response plans in place to address cyber incidents effectively. This can lead to delays and confusion in responding to a security incident, which can exacerbate the problem.
  • Lack of Third-party risk management: Public sector organizations often interact with various third-party vendors and contractors, which can introduce additional security risks. Organizations are at a higher risk of data breaches and other security incidents caused by third-party vendors without proper third-party risk management.

The lack of cybersecurity measures in public sector organizations can have serious consequences, and organizations need to take necessary steps to protect sensitive information. This includes allocating a sufficient budget for cybersecurity measures, updating legacy systems, dedicating staff and resources to cybersecurity, providing employee training, having incident response plans in place, managing third-party risks, and making cybersecurity a core function of the organization.

Incident Response And Investigation

The SFTP is working closely with other law enforcement agencies, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to pick out those responsible for the attack and to determine the extent of the information that was leaked. The department has stated that the investigation is ongoing, and additional information will be provided as it becomes available. In the meantime, the SFTP is urging individuals to monitor their personal information for any suspicious activity and to take appropriate steps to protect themselves if their data is compromised. The department is also working to implement additional security measures to prevent similar attacks from occurring in the future.

Prevention And Mitigation

Public sector organizations must prioritize cybersecurity and be proactive in protecting sensitive information. This includes regularly implementing security updates and vulnerability assessments, providing employee cybersecurity training, and having incident response plans in place. Additionally, organizations must work with cyber security experts and providers of security solutions to protect their infrastructure from known threats and to have incident response plans in place for when attacks occur.

One of the essential steps public sector organizations can take is to stay updated with the latest cyber security threats and best practices. This can be achieved by subscribing to cybersecurity news, attending cybersecurity conferences, or taking cybersecurity training courses. By staying informed and educated, public sector organizations can identify and address vulnerabilities in their systems before attackers exploit them.

Another vital aspect is implementing security means such as firewalls, antivirus software, intrusion detection systems, and encryption technologies. These technologies can help stop unauthorized access to networks, detect and respond to security incidents, and protect sensitive data. Organizations must also establish policies and procedures for monitoring, detection, and incident response in the case of a security incident.

Moreover, public sector organizations can also leverage the resources provided by cyber security agencies, such as CISA, to have access to security guidelines, best practices, and incident response support.

Conclusion

The attack on the San Francisco Transit Police Department serves as a sobering reminder of the ongoing threat of cyber-attacks and the importance of strong cybersecurity measures. Public sector organizations, in particular, face unique challenges in terms of cybersecurity and must remain vigilant in protecting sensitive information. The SFTP’s investigation into this attack is ongoing, and additional information will be provided as it becomes available. In the meantime, individuals are advised to monitor their personal data and take appropriate steps to protect themselves. 

Public sector organizations must prioritize cybersecurity and take necessary steps to protect sensitive information, and it is crucial to stay informed and educated about the recent cybersecurity threats and best practices, implement security technologies, establish incident response policies and procedures, and leverage the resources provided by cyber security agencies.

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Avishai Avivi
Avishai Avivi , CISO
InfoSec Expert
January 12, 2023 2:41 pm

“Unfortunately, public sector organizations tend to be at higher risk for a breach. The challenge of attracting cybersecurity talent combined with constrained budgets typically correlates with a lagging cybersecurity program. Public sector organizations are also less likely to have the option of paying the ransom that the malicious actors are demanding. Sadly, as can be seen through the information already described, the malicious actors have very little regard for the true victims of this breach – the people who’s information was stored in the compromised files. Public sector organizations must avail themselves to all of the free services provided by CISA, and follow the advisories they publish. No public sector organization can assume that they are not a target.”

Last edited 23 days ago by Avishai Avivi

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