back to article UK rail comms are safer than mobes – for now – say infosec bods

Last week's warning that Britain's railway systems could be susceptible to hacking has triggered a debate among security experts. Prof David Stupples of City University London made headlines last week with a warning that plans to replace the existing (aging) signalling system with the new European Rail Traffic Management …

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Network Rail already have an existing countrywide telecommunications infrastructure which is completely independent of public communications and the internet, so they may not be as susceptible to external attacks as some other industries.

Whether they choose to make use of that network, though, or whether they consider this an opportunity to cut costs and use the internet instead, remains to be seen.

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Not Invented Here Syndrome

This is planned to be a Europe wide system. Hopefully Network Rail will be working with the likes of SNCF and DB to test it and ensure it is safe and functional. At least DB has a reputation for testing signalling and control systems before they install them, unlike some organisations.

Hopefully the train system will sort out all the pitfalls before autonomous cars make their debut on the roads in significant numbers.

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Unhappy

@Alister "Network Rail already have an existing countrywide telecommunications infrastructure"

For now they do, if this "wild speculation and assumption masquerading as fact"* story from the Tory-Graph is to be believed. I'm sure one of the big telcos would be drooling at the thought of all that telecoms infrastructure being put up for sale.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/transport/11503134/Network-Rail-to-be-broken-up-or-sold-off-under-restructuring.html

*The best claim is "A move out of state ownership could boost efficiency." with no facts to back this up. The anonymous author then spends the rest of the paragraph debunking that very claim by showing what a "success" private sector Railtrack was.

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Re: @Alister "Network Rail already have an existing countrywide telecommunications infrastructure"

I'm not sure that the government pumping my money into a service I don't use is a great "success" either.

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Holmes

Re: @Alister "Network Rail already have an existing countrywide telecommunications infrastructure"

I don't use the railways that often but the fact lots of other people do on a regular basis means the roads around here are somewhat less congested than they otherwise would be.

In the wider world there are lots of services I pay for in some way but don't make use of - just like the services I do use but others contribute towards.

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Re: @Alister "Network Rail already have an existing countrywide telecommunications infrastructure"

Sure, they use it so they can pay for it.

My point was actually that it's unsurprising that Network Rail has worked better than Railtrack as it has much more money available to it than Railtrack did, which is probably necessary and it probably does make sense for railways to be paid for nationally, but it's not the public success/private failure that you paint it as.

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@Alister

I'm not sure that's wholly true, as it was sold off in 1995, and has subsequently passed through many hands, but Network Rail may well have created a new network, or bought back some of it from Thales in 2009.

Radio signalling has been used for years in the UK notably on the Far North Lines, ETRMS is already in use on the Central Wales lines to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli.

Of course the simplest hack would be to radio jam the system, which would fail safe and stop the trains, but hacking the system and making trains crash would be a lot more difficult.

Talking of autonomous cars, I wonder how well they handle level crossings? Especially the ungated kind.

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Re: Not Invented Here Syndrome

"Hopefully the train system will sort out all the pitfalls before autonomous cars make their debut on the roads in significant numbers."

Huh? Is that an allusion to automatic trains? You do realise that automatic trains have been operating in the UK since 1967 (london underground victoria line) and there are plenty more now in london. Since they all use some form of either wayside antennas or leaky feeder cable (none use GPS AFAIK though some surburban trains do for station announcements) they're all suseptable to jamming already. Someone might not be able to hack the systems but they could certainly disrupt them with a powerful enough signal at above ground sections.

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Len
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Re: Not Invented Here Syndrome

The article describes it as if ERTMS is a new system. It isn't, it's just relatively new to the UK.

The first stretches protected by ERTMS opened 11 years ago in Spain. Most modern high speed rail lines in Europe now use ERTMS, many thousands of kilometres of ERTMS protected railway line have since been installed and thousands of train services are protected using ERTMS on a daily basis.

Since its first use it has ERTMS has been through various updates already, currently on version 2.3.0d. Version 3.0 is currently being tested.

In short, ERTMS is not new or still in its infancy, it's been in production for over ten years. You could argue that the benefit of the UK being rather late to the game is that the Spanish, Italians, Dutch, Swiss, French, Swedes etc. have already worked out its teething issues.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not Invented Here Syndrome

The first stretches protected by ERTMS opened 11 years ago in Spain

Hmmm that went well then.

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Len
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Re: Not Invented Here Syndrome

That section did not have ERTMS but conventional signalling, that was the whole problem. Under ERTMS the train would have slowed down automatically.

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Southern have been trialling their new safety systems today in the Clapham Junction area.

If you can't move the trains, then they can't crash.

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Suddenly I'm really glad the the Glasgow subway seems to depend on the good old walkie-talkie.

No, really, it does.

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Mushroom

Bonus points for the Deltic cab shot. Icon, cos that's how they clag after idling for a while.

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MJI
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Well done for noticing.

Still the best high power express passenger Diesel there is, 53 years as the best!

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Apropos ERTMS, it fell over this morning here on the Cambrian in a significant way. Everything ground to a halt for a while, with long delays continuing through the day. You don't need hackers to wreck it; it's perfectly capable of doing that by itself. I mean, it's only been in operation four years, and it still doesn't feckin' work.

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Unhappy

"UK testing has already begun ahead of a roll-out"

So a bit better than the roll out of smart meters to UK consumers.

But not much.

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