Painful Truth: Future continues to be weird

We all knew the future would be weird, but we thought it would be cooler.

When I was a kid and teenager, the hot science fiction genre was cyberpunk. William Gibson conditioned us to expect cool, mirrorshade-wearing hackers who would slide through cyberspace, stealing corporate data and tangling with murderous online mafias.

Well, we did get hackers who could cause mass chaos by taking over real-world systems, who would hold us hostage like high tech James Bond villains.

But they aren’t cool. They’re basically sad dorks.

Over the weekend, San Francisco’s public railway system was hacked, shutting down not the trains, but the ticketing system.

“You Hacked, ALL Data Encrypted,” read the poorly capitalized message on personal computers and ticketing machines across the system.

For two days, the Muni, as it’s known in San Francisco, opened its fare gates and offered free rides.

Which was great for riders. But not so great for the long term financial health of the system, or for the employees who were worried they might not get paid.

The shutdown was the result of a ransomware attack. Malicious software took over and encrypted all the data on the system, allowing access only for the hacker.

And to release this data, this person demanded… about $73,000 US. That’s 100 Bitcoin.

I mean, that’s pathetic. You’ve got vast amounts of stolen data – payroll and employee files, apparently – not to mention the ability to temporarily shut down the system’s ability to gather fares. And that’s all you want?

I mean, yeah, it’s a lot of money. You could put a down payment on a nice suburban house somewhere. You could take a year off from that hacker grind, travel, bum around Europe in nice hotels. Maybe top up your retirement plan.

But it’s not exactly evil genius mastermind villain money, now is it? It’s not even six figures!

The hacker claimed, in emails with Forbes Magazine, that he hadn’t even actively hacked the Muni system. The software had just been released, and had been inadvertently downloaded by one of the Muni’s own IT workers from a compromised file.

As of now, ticketing kiosks are up and running again. the hacker may or may not get anything. The whole thing may be just a big headache.

Kind feels like a failed future.



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