Risks of cyber criminals targeting digitally-controlled trains must be fully considered, Coventry University expert warns

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Friday 22 September 2017

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Plans for Britain’s first digitally-control intercity railway are a ‘significant milestone’, but there must be a robust approach to stop cyber criminals getting access to their controls, a Coventry University expert has warned.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling today unveiled plans to install digital signalling on the line between Manchester and York to try to increase capacity and reliability.

The technology enables trains to run closer together and is already used on the London Underground.

But Dr Alexeis Garcia-Perez said the cyber security challenges ahead must be fully considered.

He said if cyber criminals tried to gain unauthorised access to location, train tracking, signalling or other rail infrastructure data from the digitally-controlled trains it could compromise the safety of passengers, staff and the community.

Dr Garcia-Perez, a cyber security expert at the university’s Centre for Business in Society, said:


“Running digitally controlled trains is a significant milestone in the journey towards a digital railway in the UK. 

“It could bring substantial benefits to both passengers and the rail network. However, a coherent, cross-industry strategy and a robust and realistic delivery plan are essential so that challenges associated to the use of data for the management of signalling and traffic are fully considered for the safety of railway passengers, staff and communities in general.  

“Such challenges are related not only to the required railway infrastructure but to large-scale data collection and management and the resulting cyber-security risks.

“A cross-industry approach to the secure capture, communication, storage and processing of railway data is important, so that the risk of intentional attempts to bypass the security controls of any railway information system by cyber criminals is minimised during the operation of digitally controlled trains.”