US regulations to address railway and airline cyber attacks

By Laura Berrill
Department for Homeland Security says transit agencies and airlines need guarding against cyber attacks

The US Transportation Security Administration is to soon issue new regulations designed to make rail lines and airlines better prepared for cyberattacks.

Required to report

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that under the new directive, railroads and rail-related entities deemed "higher-risk" will be required to appoint a point person in charge of cybersecurity. They would also be required to report cyber incidents to DHS' Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and create a contingency plan for what to do if a cyberattack were to happen.

The ‘lower-risk’ railroads and related entities will be encouraged, but not required, to take the same steps, added Mayorkas. He made the comments during a virtual speech at the Billington Cybersecurity Summit yesterday.

Mayorkas went on to add that additional regulations will boost cybersecurity in the aviation industry. He said "Critical" US airport and passenger aircraft operators, along with all cargo aircraft operators, will be required to put in place a cybersecurity coordinator and report cyberattacks to CISA.

Urgent safety steps

He added: "We need to be equipped today, not tomorrow. I can't overemphasize the urgency of the mission."

Transit systems have been recent targets for cybercriminals. In the Spring, a hacking group with possible ties to the Chinese government compromised the computer systems of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York

Transit officials said at the time that the hackers didn't gain access to systems that control train cars and that rider safety was not at risk. But they later raised concerns that hackers could have entered those systems or that they could continue to exploit the agency's computer systems through a back door.

In June, a ransomware attack shut down the main booking system of the Steamship Authority of Massachusetts, which runs ferries from Cape Cod to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Ships ran safely, but passengers weren't able to book or change their reservations online for more than a week and credit card use was severely limited.

 

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