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Local cybersecurity expert warns cyberattacks will likely become frequent


Federal law enforcement agencies are still investigating the recent cyberattack on Oʻahu Transit Services, which operates TheBus and TheHandi-Van.

The FBI, and part of the Department of Homeland Security known as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, are trying to figure out how it happened.

Matthew Chapman, a computer science and cybersecurity professor at the University of Hawaiʻi - West Oʻahu, said the intent or motivation behind the attack was not clear — but nationwide trends point to an increase in incidents across the transportation sector.

"I don't think this is an anomaly. And I believe most cybersecurity professionals would agree with me," Chapman said. "I do believe we can expect a continued increase in cyberattacks and continued success by these threat actors. So planning, preparation, redundancy, and resiliency, these are all going to be really important when we consider sustaining critical services in Hawaiʻi, and really in the country as a whole."

As for protecting against cyberattacks, Chapman said there's a shortage of cybersecurity professionals nationwide.

"There was a report recently by Microsoft and they tried to give a number, kind of quantify, how short are we in cybersecurity professionals in the United States — and that number was a half a million. That's problematic," he told HPR's The Conversation. "Most of my effort is the development of the cybersecurity workforce right here in Hawaiʻi."

The recent cyberattack on Oʻahu Transit Services was one of three affecting Honolulu County’s critical services in the last two weeks.

Honolulu Emergency Medical Services and the Board of Water Supply were impacted by a nationwide attack on Kronos, an independent contractor that both agencies use for their timekeeping systems.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Dec. 20, 2021. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Savannah Harriman-Pote is the energy and climate change reporter. She is also the lead producer of HPR's "This Is Our Hawaiʻi" podcast. Contact her at sharrimanpote@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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