Rail’s need for cyber-resilience in the face of rising cyber-threats

In Global Railway Review Issue 04 2022, Dimitri van Zantvliet, Chief Information Security Officer and Joseph Mager, Deputy Chief Information Security Officer at NS (Dutch Railways), explored how the rail sector can maintain resilience in an evolving cyber threat landscape.

Cyber Security and safety information, personal data concept. Digital Padlocks on abstract technology background.

In a world in turmoil, we need to keep calm and stay on track

It is time to give more traction to railway cyber‑resilience.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it became evident how vital public transport was for the logistics of medical personnel to their hospitals. One of the many downsides of COVID-19 was that most commuters had to work from home or took a car to work and stopped using public transport all together. Most railway organisations had to cut costs, change focus to necessary operations only and facilitate remote work to their employees. On top of the pandemic came the horrible war in Ukraine. Many railways in the area were directly or indirectly affected and worries arose for cyber spill-over effects throughout Europe. In the same time period, the ransomware business rose to one‑billion-dollar turnover and the amount of zero‑days increased with 200 per cent. How do we as railway undertakers and infrastructure managers deal with such a volatile threat landscape? How can we find the right balance between resilience and firefighting mode? How do we make sure that increasing digitalisation is not opening up new risk areas? The answer is that we need to learn and find out together in close collaboration within the sector. We are confident that this is possible.