Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/01/11/tram_hack/

Polish teen derails tram after hacking train network

Turns city network into Hornby set

By John Leyden

Posted in Security, 11th January 2008 11:56 GMT

A Polish teenager allegedly turned the tram system in the city of Lodz into his own personal train set, triggering chaos and derailing four vehicles in the process. Twelve people were injured in one of the incidents.

The 14-year-old modified a TV remote control so that it could be used to change track points, The Telegraph reports. Local police said the youngster trespassed in tram depots to gather information needed to build the device. The teenager told police that he modified track setting for a prank.

"He studied the trams and the tracks for a long time and then built a device that looked like a TV remote control and used it to manoeuvre the trams and the tracks," said Miroslaw Micor, a spokesman for Lodz police.

"He had converted the television control into a device capable of controlling all the junctions on the line and wrote in the pages of a school exercise book where the best junctions were to move trams around and what signals to change.

"He treated it like any other schoolboy might a giant train set, but it was lucky nobody was killed. Four trams were derailed, and others had to make emergency stops that left passengers hurt. He clearly did not think about the consequences of his actions," Micor added.

Transport command and control systems are commonly designed by engineers with little exposure or knowledge about security using commodity electronics and a little native wit. The apparent ease with which Lodz's tram network was hacked, even by these low standards, is still a bit of an eye opener.

Problems with the signalling system on Lodz's tram network became apparent on Tuesday when a driver attempting to steer his vehicle to the right was involuntarily taken to the left. As a result the rear wagon of the train jumped the rails and collided with another passing tram. Transport staff immediately suspected outside interference.

The youth, described by his teachers as an electronics buff and exemplary student, faces charges at a special juvenile court of endangering public safety. ®