Australian police have had to suspend upward of 8,000 tickets for speeding and running red lights after learning the cameras that caught the acts had become infected with a virus. The Victoria, Australia police blamed the WannaCry virus, which spread through Windows computers last month, locking down systems and demanding a ransom be paid before they could be used again.
It’s not entirely clear that WannaCry is the right diagnosis here — police said the virus spread over USB and caused the cameras to continually reboot, neither of which are features WannaCry is known for. But either way, a virus infected nearly 100 of the state’s 280 road cameras, which was enough for police to doubt the integrity of all of them.
“At no point could I be confident that this virus had not gone into any other of the 280 cameras.”
Until the police are able to review the systems to ensure that the virus didn’t alter the camera’s findings, all tickets issued between June 6th and June 22nd — when the virus was first uploaded and when it was wiped out — are being withdrawn. Doug Fryer, the assistant commissioner, said the tickets may still be issued at a later date if no problems are detected.
“I need as the responsible enforcement officer to be absolutely sure that the 280 cameras were working correctly, with integrity, without any corruption,” Fryer said at a news conference on Saturday.
Police said the virus was spread by a USB drive that a maintenance worker inserted into the cameras. Earlier last week, police said only 55 cameras had been infected and decided to withhold tickets from those cameras only. They later discovered an additional 42 cameras that were infected, leading them to expand the review and the freeze on ticketing.
“At no point could I be confident that this virus had not gone into any other of the 280 cameras,” said police minister Lisa Neville. She said the review was “absolutely critical for public confidence in our red light and speed cameras system.”
While it’s not perfectly clear that WannaCry was really behind this attack, it’s still very possible that some sort of virus managed to infect the cameras. Researchers have been warning for years that systems like these are vulnerable to all kinds of simple and clever attacks, and it seems like Victoria’s police have been unfortunate enough to find that out firsthand.