Security Experts:

Metro Vancouver Transportation Agency TransLink Hit by Ransomware

TransLink, the transportation agency of Metro Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada, has been hit by ransomware, and the ransom note delivered by the attackers suggests the incident involved a piece of ransomware named Egregor.

TransLink first reported issues related to its IT systems on December 1, when it informed customers that some online services may be unavailable.

On December 2, the company said it was investigating “suspicious network activity,” and that it had disabled access to some online services, such as its trip planner tool. Customers were also told that they could not use their payment card at Compass vending machines and Tap to Pay fare gates.

TransLink restoried payment services on Thursday and said the incident has not impacted transit services and transit safety systems.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond confirmed in a statement issued late on Thursday that the company was targeted in a ransomware attack, and said the attack “included communications to TransLink through a printed message.”

Global BC reporter Jordan Armstrong reported on Twitter that the attack involved the ransom note being sent to TransLink printers. A screenshot he made available shows that the attackers used the Egregor ransomware. It’s unclear how much money the cybercriminals have demanded, but Armstrong learned from sources that the transportation agency does not intend to pay up.

Desmond said a comprehensive forensic investigation will be conducted in an effort to determine what type of information may have been accessed by the attackers. However, he has clarified that TransLink uses a third-party payment processor for fare transactions and it does not store payment data.

“TransLink employs a number of tools to prevent, identify and mitigate these types of attacks,” Desmond said. “Upon detection, we took immediate steps to isolate and shut-down key IT assets and systems in order to contain the threat and reduce the impact on our operations and infrastructure.”

Egregor is a relatively new piece of ransomware that was first spotted in late September. Digital Shadows, a provider of digital risk protection solutions, reported last month that Egregor had a lot of potential to become a significant threat to organizations, with its operators claiming to have targeted 71 organizations across 19 industry verticals by November 17.

Egregor is a “double extortion” ransomware, which means its operators not only encrypt files, but also steal valuable data, in an effort to convince the victim to pay the ransom.

Related: Why Mass Transit Could Be the Next Big Target for Cyber Attacks—and What to do About it

Related: University Project Tracks Ransomware Attacks on Critical Infrastructure

view counter
Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.