Hacking public infrastructure

Assemblymember Marie Waldron
AD-75 (R)

Last week, Cyber-criminal hackers attacked the Sacramento Regional Transit system (SacRT), erasing computer programs that affected internal operations, including computers that assign bus routes throughout the Sacramento region. More harm was threatened if SacRT failed to meet a ransom demand.

The ransom message was sent via Facebook demanding a bitcoin payment, with a value above $8,000, immediately. SacRT officials determined that no data was stolen and steps are underway to secure the system. Transit services were not impacted.

Other recent reports include the security breach at Equifax, one of the nation’s three major consumer credit reporting agencies. Reportedly, the sensitive financial information of 143 million Americans was compromised, making this one of the largest security breaches in history.

Shortly after being elected to the Assembly, I became aware of a hacking incident at a local hospital. A caller using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology shut down the emergency room’s phone lines in an extortion attempt.

As a result of this and other incidents, I introduced Assembly Bill 1649, which expanded the California Comprehensive Computer Data Act to combat this growing threat. The bill updated legal definitions and modernized our codes to include forms of computer hacking, including government and public safety infrastructure systems operated by hospitals, emergency services and public utility companies. AB 1649 was signed into law by Governor Brown.

From government to private industry, our financial security and our voter files are all under threat of attack by cyber-criminals. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; it’s also the price that we all must pay for modern technology.

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