By Shelley Smith
Playing trains and derailing a city’s tram system for real is serious business and a 14-year-old Polish student, known as an electronic “genius” and a model student, did just that in the city of Lodz, Poland. The teenager turned the city of Lodz tram system into his own personal train set by using public library and open source information from the Internet and trespassing in tram depots to gather information needed to build a device made by modifying a TV remote control.
To do this he hacked into the train network where he was able to make the tram system into his own personal train set. With the remote control he was able to maneuver the trams and change track points, triggering chaos that derailed four trams, caused emergency stops that resulted in the injury twelve people in the process and luckily no deaths. His reason for modifying the track settings; he did it as a prank.
This was the latest incident of young computer hackers breaking into computer systems challenging security systems. Another example was in 1999, where hackers, using home computers, broke into a British military system and changed secure settings of a British military satellite. Securing the nation’s rail and mass transit system continues to be an enormous undertaking from terrorist attacks, yet there still looms the vulnerabilities from unseen computer hackers and terrorist attacks.
During 2004 and 2005, a U.S. Teamsters Rail Conference conducted a Safe Rails/Secure America Survey and rail workers evaluated safety and security measures. Employed members from 46 states by 34 railroads participated. It was discovered that the nation’s 230,000 miles of track was a likely target of Al-Qaeda and security efforts have largely been left to the discretion of rail corporations. The workers reported security gaps and showed there was a disturbing lack of security along the railroad tracks and in the rail yards across the nation. They found corporations were growing dependent on remote control technology to replace engineers. There was minimal security training for employees and a disinterest in improving security along points of vulnerability, for locomotives, tracks, bridges, tunnels and for those who lived in close proximity of the railroad tracks.
Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the 7/7 London subway bombings, and the Madrid rail bombings, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken steps to manage risk and strengthen the US rail and transit systems from terrorism or other criminal activities. To help reinforce rail and mass transit security, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has given out $115 million in grants since the March 11 Madrid, Spain lethal attacks on their rail and mass transit system. Yet, even with assertive efforts against potential terrorist attacks there still looms the threat of cyber terrorism and hackers.
Schoolboy Hacks into City’s Tram System
Polish Teen Derails Tram After Hacking Train Network
Transportation Security Administration
Workers Warn of Security Gaps on Nation’s Railroads
About the Author
Shelley Smith is an expert in analysis and research on national and international law, foreign affairs, criminal justice systems and the psychology of criminal behavior. Smith is currently working toward a B.A in Intelligence Studies with a focus on analysis and terrorism at American Military University.