Foreign hackers apparently took control of the US Northwest rail company’s computers and played trains with the railway signals twice in December.
Apparently the train service on the unnamed railroad “was slowed for a short while” and rail schedules were delayed about 15 minutes after the interference. Having caught a US train from New York to Florida and arrived a day and a half late we are surprised that any one noticed a 15 minute delay.
The next day before rush hour, a “second event occurred” that did not affect schedules, TSA officials added.
The TSA is responsible for protecting all US transportation systems, but is better known for stuffing up US flights and killing off the nation’s tourism. The report into the train hack seems to be its first major brush with cyber crime. Normally it just has to deal with beautiful women who don’t want pictures of their breasts passed around the TSA cafe.
According to Nextgov, Amtrak and the freight railway outfits apparently had not thought much about cyber attacks before these incidents.
The report said that when TSA investigators began to suspect the exploit was an intentional act rather than a glitch, they acted under the assumption it could present a broader danger to the U.S. transportation system.
Two IP addresses were found for the attacks source but the report does not say in which country they were located.
Alerts listing the three IP addresses went out to several hundred railroad firms and public transportation agencies, as well as to partners in Canada so that they could be blocked.
The Homeland Security Department, which oversees TSA, is not sure if the rail infiltration was a targeted attack. However, it seems that the events were enough to start the TSA on a programme to educate the train companies on the perils of hacking.