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UK rail network attacked by hackers four times in a year

The infiltrations appear to have been exploratory rather than disruptive but researchers say they highlight a real risk

Emma Boyle
Wednesday 13 July 2016 16:53 BST

The UK rail network has been infiltrated in four major cyber attacks over the past year according to cyber security firm Darktrace.

Darktrace, the private firm responsible for the cyber safety of a large part of the UK rail network, hasn’t released much information on the nature of the attacks, or who was behind them, but has said they seemed to be exploratory rather than disruptive in intention.

This has, however, raised some fears for passenger security as experts say that hackers infiltrating the system to cause damage to the rail network is a real possibility.

Sergey Gordeychik, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab in Moscow, told Sky News that as well as being able to gain access to harmless things like information boards, hackers could access larger computer management systems that control tains and signals.

Gordeychik said that if malicious hackers “have enough knowledge, then they can create real disaster related to train safety.“

Dave Palmer, the chief technology officer of Darktrace, told the Telegraph “In an era of imperfect defences and increasingly complex networks, determined threats can always get in. Today, all businesses can be affected, regardless of size or sector.”

Network Rail, which is not a Darktrace customer, was quick to assert that it takes the digital security of the UK rail network very seriously and Gordeychik also said that railway operators are investing in tighter security as more of the rail network moves from analogue technology to digital systems. The report will no doubt serve as reinforcement of how important this kind of security investment is.

A spokesman for Network Rail said in a statement that “Britain has the safest major railway in Europe... safety is our top priority, which is why we work closely with government, the security services, our partners and suppliers in the rail industry and security specialists to combat cyber threats.

“Digital in-cab signalling is used safely and effectively by dozens of countries in Europe and around the world and is similar to technology already in use on the Tube and other metro systems in this country.”

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