Networking Expert Claims Upgraded Train Signalling Systems Could be Hacked

By Tom Pritchard on at

A scientist slash government advisor has warned that a hi-tech signalling system, that will eventually control the entire British rail system, could be hacked to deliberately cause trains to crash.

Professor David Stupples, an expert in networked electronics and radio systems at University London, made the claims when speaking to the BBC. He claims that replacing the current ageing infrastructure with new computer systems could leave the rail system vulnerable to cyber attacks. Apparently hacking into the system could give someone control over the signals, and let them causing major accidents or disruption.

Network Rail has acknowledge the threat, but states that it is working with security services, specialists, and the government to ensure that the right controls and precautions are in place.

Similar systems are already used in countries across the globe, and according to the BBC there have been no reports of cyber attacks. Apparently the system will actually make train travel safer, because it reduces the risk of the driver making mistakes.

Stupples isn't convinced. He points out that he knows the government isn't complacent and has concerns about cyber attacks, but he has spoken out to help raise awareness. The attacks he's warning about aren't likely to be work of your stereotypical basement-dwelling hacker. Stupples claims that the system is quite secure from outside attack (though nothing is infallible), but danger could arise from someone on the inside. Employees could install malware, intentionally or accidentally, which could open up the system to abuse.

Tackling that problem is always going to be tricky, but let's hope that plenty of precautions will be put into place before the system comes into play sometime in the 2020s. [BBC News]

Image: The Train arriving to Newquay on September 13. 2014 in UK from Shutterstock