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Hackers Are Giving San Franciscans Free Subway Rides for Thanksgiving Weekend

SF’s Muni is free this weekend after computer screens started displaying “You Hacked”
Janus Rose
New York, US
Image: Eric Fischer/Flickr

Given how travel always tends to be more intense on Thanksgiving weekend, public transit riders were likely pleased to find the fare gates of San Francisco's Muni left open on Saturday, granting city-wide free entry to bus, train, and trolley services.

But it wasn't a festive act of charity by San Franscisco's Municipal Transit Authority—it was the result of a security breach of Muni's computer systems, where a hacker had left a message on station agents' computer screens reading "You hacked."

SFMTA officials confirmed the hack to local news outlets on Saturday, saying they are "working to resolve the situation." A spokeperson told a local CBS affiliate that it is working to resolve the situation and that fare gates have been left open "as a precaution to minimize customer impact," but provided no further details, citing an ongoing investigation.

As of Sunday morning, fare gates remain open but the details of the impact are still unknown. It's also unclear whether charity was hacker's true goal in breaching the SFMTA's systems, or if the system was shut down in response to a more malicious attack.

Motherboard was unable to reach two SFMTA spokepersons for comment at the time of publication.

While the Muni hacker's intentions are still unknown, hackers have a long and storied history of messing with public transit systems, typically with the end goal of getting free rides. In 2008, a judge barred two MIT students from giving a presentation at the Def Con hacking conference which revealed how to add value to the RFID-based cards used by Boston's T subway system.