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Is the railway sufficiently prepared for a cyber-attack?

Posted: 24 February 2020 | | No comments yet

Ian Maxwell, Head of Train Control Systems at the UK’s Office of Rail and Road (ORR), provides an insight into the differences between external and internal cyber incidents, and how Britain’s rail industry must adapt in order to protect itself from both.

Is the railway sufficiently prepared for a cyber-attack?

In the lifespan of Britain’s railways, cyber-attacks are a very new risk for the rail industry to consider as part of its risk assessments. In the days of mechanical technology, clearly there was no issue (and the term ‘cyber’ did not exist). As the rail industry moved to electrical systems and relay-based signalling, the issue still did not exist. Yet, at that stage, the beginnings of digital forms of data transmission were creeping in. The first processor-based multiplexer data systems appeared in non‑safety critical roles, but were still critical to operations.

Solid State Interlocking (SSI) in the mid-1980s was the first big step for the industry into processor-based safety systems. Security was a recognised issue. The technician’s terminal was a useful interrogation facility, but also offered some access to modifying data. Initially, the terminal access was only via a physical connection and located next to the SSI cubicle, but it was not long before the convenience of interrogating the interlocking remotely led to the introduction of a modem link.










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