The San Francisco Municipal Railway, or Muni for short, appears to have been hacked on Saturday after reports surfaced that terminals throughout various stations were displaying “You hacked. All data encrypted.”
Payment machines weren’t working as a result, forcing the public transportation service to give passengers free rides. According to the San Francisco Examiner, Muni’s system has been hacked since Friday, with subway fare gates locked in an open position and electronically close-able. A spokesperson for the transit authority, Paul Rose, told the Examiner the gates were being kept open to promote the free Muni service.
It didn’t take long for people to start comparing the hack to something out of Watch Dogs 2, Ubisoft’s latest open world hacking game. The game takes place in San Francisco, and while a lot of the game’s emphasis is on planning silly pranks and causins general mayhem, there’s also a more light political philosophy motivating the main story. Kirk Hamilton summed it up well in his review,
“Watch Dogs 2 tells the story of Marcus Holloway, a cocky young hacker from Oakland who’s got a bone to pick with the system. At the start of the game, Marcus is recruited into DedSec, a fun-loving San Francisco-based hacker collective that operates more or less like how your dad imagines Anonymous. They wear edgy clothes, plan high-profile pranks to stick it to the man, and work out of a hackerspace off Dolores Park. They hate the likes of Facebook, Google, and all other major tech companies, which they see as betraying the public trust by repackaging their users’ data for nefarious ends. Marcus sums up DedSec’s mission statement pretty well: ‘Big data is invasive and shitty.’”
And in a lot of ways, hacking public transportation to give people free rides, especially on an extended holiday weekend, feels more in line with Marcus’ character than, as Kirk put it, “murdering Google security guards and assassinating SF cops.”
Meanwhile, the SFMTA, San Francisco’s municipal transportation agency, doesn’t seem to have any leads about its real world hack. According to a subsequent KPXI 5 report, the security breach has also affected employees, with some workers not sure if they will be paid this week as a result. “Cyber attackers also hit Muni’s email systems,” said the news organization. And SFMTA still has no clue who hacked it or why. The SFMTA’s Twitter account still hasn’t acknowledged the issue either.