Hackers Could 'Crash Trains' Using A Cyber Attack

24/04/2015 11:05 | Updated 24 April 2015

While the blockbuster game 'Watch_Dogs' allowed us to hack into a virtual recreation of Chicago, altering trains, traffic lights and more, the truth is the reality seemed a little way off.

Well it seems we, and the industry were very much mistaken. A railway signalling system being trialled in the UK could be vulnerable to a cyber attack by hacker with the aim to cause a train crash, a government adviser has warned.

uk train

Professor David Stupples told the BBC the European Rail Traffic Management System, a new digital system aimed to make lines safer, could be exposed to malicious software, or malware, used to cause a "nasty accident".

The internet security expert at City University said government ministers feared the possible threat of hacking and the biggest could come from an insider.

He told the broadcaster: "It's the clever malware that actually alters the way the train will respond. So, it will perhaps tell the system the train is slowing down, when it's speeding up."

"Governments aren't complacent. Certain ministers know this is absolutely possible and they are worried about it. Safeguards are going in, in secret, but it's always possible to get around them.

"The weakness is getting malware into the system by employees. Either because they are dissatisfied or being bribed or coerced."

network rail

Prime Minister David Cameron looks at signalling computer monitors in the signal room at Network Rail Operating Centre, Cardiff, Wales.

Network Rail, in charge of the upgrade which is expected be operational by the 2020s, said it acknowledged the threat.

"We know that the risk (of a cyber attack) will increase as we continue to roll out digital technology across the network," a spokesman told the BBC.

"We work closely with government, the security services, our partners and suppliers in the rail industry and external cyber-security specialists to understand the threat to our systems and make sure we have the right controls in place."

Hacking has become a major cause for concern for the UK government with a spate of revelations showing how prevalent the practise is in small crime.

In May 2014 the Met Police revealed shocking statistics which showed that half of all the cars stolen or broken into in London were hacked.

Proving that the days of a hammer and chisel are now far into the distance, New York Times journalist Nick Bilton recently became a victim of hacking after he watched a group of youths approach his car and then unlock it wirelessly using a hacking gadget.

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