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Hardware Hacking Transportation

14-Year-Old Turns Tram System Into Personal Train Set 380

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the no-volume-control-on-this-tv dept.
F-3582 writes "By modifying a TV remote a 14-year-old boy from Lodz, Poland, managed to gain control over the junctions of the tracks. According to The Register the boy had 'trespassed in tram depots to gather information needed to build the device. [...] 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.' Four trams derailed in the process injuring a number of passengers. The boy is now looking at 'charges at a special juvenile court of endangering public safety.'"
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14-Year-Old Turns Tram System Into Personal Train Set

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  • by Sciros (986030) on Friday January 11, 2008 @02:40PM (#22003418) Journal
    I have $20 that says at least one TV crime-drama-whatever show will have a plot where a bad guy tries to plot some train crash by messing with a TV remote, or better yet, video game controller.

    This kid does deserve to get in trouble, though, big-time. You don't go around derailing trams, that's not cool.
  • by show me altoids (1183399) * on Friday January 11, 2008 @02:45PM (#22003534)
    Reminds me of Johnny [].
  • by _spider_ (171782) on Friday January 11, 2008 @02:52PM (#22003666)
    I think we are bound to see more and more of this, after all, in this day and age, parents get their kids a Wii/xBox,PSx/etc in lieu of more challenging and creative toys probably a lot of us grew up with like Legos, Lincoln logs, erector sets, . . . things that I think are challenging and engaging.

    I'm proud for the kid in the sense that he put his mind to work, but at the same time, no points for lacking discretion, and a good sense of responsibility. And I don't think he should get a free pass just because he is a kid. If he is smart enough to do what he did, I think its entirely reasonable to assume that he had the capacity to know what the effects may be.
  • by Critical Facilities (850111) on Friday January 11, 2008 @02:57PM (#22003770) Homepage
    This []might be what gave him the idea in the first place.
  • Re:wtf (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mea37 (1201159) on Friday January 11, 2008 @03:06PM (#22003906)
    If by that you mean that the engineers (responsible for design of the system) and their bosses should also be facing criminal charges, then yes, they should.

    That doesn't mean what the boy did was ok, or that he shouldn't be facing charges, though. While he is young and might not be held to the same standard of foresight as an adult, still his behavior cannot be excused as merely impulsive considering the time and effort involved. Even if he isn't held fully accountable for endangering lives, still he had to know he would be causing considerable disruption.

    I'm curious, though, about the details of the tram system in question. The article describes a tram operator trying to go one way while the track pushed him the other way... so I assume these are not strictly rail-following vehicles (like trains) that have only an accelerator and a brake?
  • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Friday January 11, 2008 @03:17PM (#22004100)

    Yes security should have been implemented but why should one group have to defend themselves against another group?
    It's better to have your lack of security demonstrated to you by a relatively benign agent before a truly malevolent one.

    Is this not the rationale for penetration testing?
  • by alextheseal (653421) on Friday January 11, 2008 @03:18PM (#22004132)
    The whole safety department of that tram line should be fired. A system hackable via a TV remote and unencyrpted signals subject to relay attacks should not be deployed ever. They should be sacked for having allowed it. Same goes for the "traffic light" systems here in the US with the same flaws. Course I didn't RTFA so maybe he even cracked the encryption. In which case only sack the designer of the encryption.
  • by GiMP (10923) on Friday January 11, 2008 @03:49PM (#22004752)
    It is interesting that you note the distance required. It isn't mentioned at the Register, but the Polish news sources have said that he was riding inside of the trams that were being controlled.
  • by rbanffy (584143) on Friday January 11, 2008 @04:13PM (#22005152) Homepage Journal
    This reminds me of a Mythbusters episode when they investigated how deadly a coin falling from the top of the Empire State Building would be to someone down on the street. They interviewed a lady that lives (or works) a couple dozen floors down, where most of the coins end up falling and she wondered what they had in mind - because they are either throwing money away for no reason or they are throwing it away because they are trying to get someone killed on the streets below.
  • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Friday January 11, 2008 @05:38PM (#22006680) Journal
    Secondly, I hate when people excuse bad driving as normal. It's not acceptable. If you don't clear the intersection when emergency vehicles are coming, you shouldn't be driving, period. If you consistently drive 5mph under the speed limit, your license should be revoked. If you can't PARK YOUR CAR without extreme effort, license REVOKED! If you took licenses away from all the people that shouldn't have them for safety reasons, there would be 50% fewer people on the road, AT LEAST.

    So, if more than 50% of the people are kept off the road because you don't like how they drive, perhaps they should round YOU up, get rid of YOU, and drive as they see fit without interference from micromanaging busy bodies who think we're obligated to operate in a way that you can predict and write down?

    You know, there have been numerous suppressed studies demonstrating that road rules and signs actually make driving less safe because they give a false sense of security. I don't have a link at my fingertips, but there have been several of them done. The safest way to structure roads is to remove all signs and controls, and force people to remain interactive with the environment rather than being hypnotized into routine. The reason the highly structured and regulated road systems continue is because they are an industry with an interest in self-preservation, and a cash cow for government, not because they are a good way to do things.
  • by luder (923306) * <[ten.sarbl] [ta] [todhsals]> on Friday January 11, 2008 @06:14PM (#22007276)

    What other systems are out there created in the same context, i.e., with little thought to external interference?
    Here's a video of a german teenager messing up with road information panels []. Apparently, he got a copy of the software used by authorities to change those displays. It seems that anyone in the possession of that software and a wireless card can do it. Maybe someone who knows german can give more details.

Bus error -- please leave by the rear door.