Cyber criminals target cable cars to extort ransoms

Hackers pose a threat to safety in hitting a global cable cars and ropeways market that is predicted to be worth $4.6bn by 2024

epa07294580 (FILE) - ILLUSTRATION - A person sits in front of a computer screen in Moers, Germany, 04 January 2019 (reissued 19 Jauary 2019). Media reports on 17 January 2019 state that a record with numerous stolen user data has been published on the Internet. The collection named Collection #1 contained almost 773 million different email addresses, more than 21 million different passwords and more than a billion combinations of credentials, according to a Australian IT security expert. Internet users shall be affected worldwide.  EPA/SASCHA STEINBACH
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Cyber criminals are targeting cable car systems in countries such as Austria and Russia, posing a risk to mountain transport systems used by winter tourists.

Cable car attacks involved servers infected with ransomware, causing a shutdown of cableways for days, according to a report by cyber-security company FireEye based in California. A ransomware attack is when hackers lock users out of their systems and demand a ransom in return for access.

“These incidents appear to be the result of hackers targeting the cableway specifically,” the report said.

The global cable cars and ropeways market is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11.9 per cent to reach $4.6 billion by the end of 2024, according to Persistence Market Research based in the US.

Control systems are increasingly being exposed to attacks from cyber criminals in ways that have a real-world impact, said Alister Shepherd, Middle East and Africa director at cyber-security company Mandiant, a consulting arm of FireEye.

“This can have a critical impact on public health and safety … organisations need to take it seriously. With cable cars in many Middle East popular skiing destinations running on the same or similar systems, travellers need to be aware of this threat,” said Mr Shepherd.

According to the report, the chief executive of the the company that owns and operates the Moscow Ropeway (MKD) reportedly received an email claiming "files on the company's major computer had been encrypted’ and a ransom in Bitcoins was demanded for their decryption.

Cyber crime costs reached about $600bn globally in 2017, or 0.8 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product, according to a report by McAfee and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

The Middle East cyber-security market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 14.2 per cent – reaching around $22.14bn by 2022, according to Research and Markets' data.