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[ISN] Polish teen derails tram after hacking train network


By John Leyden
The Register
11th January 2008

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 

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.

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