Understanding the Current Transit Investment in Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity attacks are increasing globally and across every sector of society. Transit is not immune. Cybersecurity ransom attacks were up over 25% year-over-year between 2021 and 2022 and the average cost and time to recover from a cybersecurity attack continues to skyrocket. As a result, the cybersecurity insurance market is changing rapidly to reflect this growth. Cybersecurity insurance used to be a low-cost add-on for transit agencies and their vendors. Today, many insurance companies are tightening underwriting guidelines related to cybersecurity. The transit industry is coming out of the most challenging period in its history after the COVID-19 pandemic. Most agencies are struggling to recover ridership and have had to cut services. Yet many are still facing a looming fiscal cliff. A successful cyberattack could push transit agencies into uncharted waters disproportionately impacting the essential workers that are key to a thriving and competitive economy. This study will assess whether transit agencies have made progress in hardening their cybersecurity systems to prevent an attack and put in place the necessary tools necessary to respond to the inevitable attack, thus minimizing its severity and impact on ridership. The researchers will survey the respondents who participated in the 2020 survey that was the base for the landmark Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) study - Is the Transit Industry Prepared for the Cyber Revolution? Policy Recommendations to Enhance Surface Transit Cyber Preparedness, to update several of the key questions about agency preparedness. The researchers will also collect data from additional respondents to broaden the data set and ask a series of new questions on cybersecurity preparedness and investment. The results of the survey and interviews will be grouped in various ways to create peer benchmarks. The resulting analysis will provide the researchers, and ultimately transit agencies and regulators, with insights about investments in cybersecurity prevention across various segments of the industry. The researchers will use these insights to make policy recommendations for agencies, the federal government, and Congress. 

Principal Investigator: 
Scott Belcher
PI Contact Information: 


Mineta Transportation Institute

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October 2023 to September 2024
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This study will provide transit agencies with the ability to benchmark their cybersecurity preparedness and investment against other similarly situated transit agencies. Such information can be an invaluable tool to understand whether they are investing properly and to justify necessary resources. The study will also inform the federal government about the impact that their investment in education, the CAAT tool, and in procurement requirements have made on the industry as well as new actions that they can take to enable further improvement. The researchers will work closely with the American Public Transportation Associations (APTA), Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), American Association of State Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and their affiliate organizations. The researchers with will also work with federal agencies such the U.S. DOT, FTA, DHS, FEMA, and TSA.

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Transit agencies must be prepared for the inevitable cyber-attacks. To do this they must put in place the proper processes and procedures and provide training for employees to “identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover”. If they have these basics in place, they will be better prepared to respond quickly in the event of an attack. Understanding these basics and knowing how peer agencies are investing in and implementing them, will be invaluable. If the transit industry cannot operate at normal capacity, it will continue to lose ridership quickly, which it cannot afford. The industry has become singularly focused on recapturing lost riders as well as adding new riders. Safety is key to capturing and keeping riders. Safety is also an essential element of every transit agency’s mission. A cyber-attack has an immediate and, in some cases, lengthy impact that negatively influences ridership confidence in the transit provider and their willingness to utilize its services.    

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