The transportation sector is growing increasingly competitive, with passengers and clients expecting greater convenience and connectivity from their transportation services.
Public and freight transit systems are evolving at an unprecedented pace, with the advent of digital ticketing, scheduling apps, and onboard wireless networks, seamlessly connecting rail customers to a new realm of travel and transport possibilities. Yet, beneath the surface of this modern railway revolution lies often overlooked cybersecurity.
The Intersection of Safety and Cybersecurity
The assurance of physical safety is a cornerstone of public transit systems, and it's not misplaced. The history of rail safety is long and continues to evolve. Rigorous safety standards and well-established protocols have led to remarkable advancements in minimizing accidents and protecting passengers.
However, due to the rail industry’s digital transformation over the past decade, the rail safety paradigm has had to extend beyond the physical realm. A new threat landscape looms over this digital revolution, threatening the reliability and convenience rail transport is known for.
We have become reliant on mobile apps to access the most basic services. For rail customers, apps that facilitate ticketing, scheduling, and navigation are invaluable tools. However, offering customers a greater amount of digital services without any network protection and monitoring comes with a price.
While passengers trustingly connect to the train’s Wi-Fi, a simple malware installed in the train’s network can have drastic consequences on passengers’ privacy and digital safety. Personal identifiable information (PII) of passengers stored on PIS systems has turned rail into a prime target for malicious actors. Over the past year we have learned of a handful of major data leaks worldwide.
U.S.-based Wabtec is a leader in freight locomotives, and in March of 2022 hackers succeeded in breaching its network, installing malware and getting access to the personal data of its 25,000 employees across 50 countries. Another significant data breach at the end of last year affected more than 30 million Indian Railways passengers. The stolen data was subsequently sold on the Dark Web and included several government email addresses.
Moreover, the use of wireless networks on trains adds another layer of complexity to data security. The amount of data exchanged between devices and the train's onboard systems creates a fertile ground for cyber threats, ranging from data breaches to unauthorized access. This is where the concept of cybersecurity not only comes into play, but also becomes essential. Cybersecurity ensures that passengers' private data remains as secure as their physical journey.
Rail Cybersecurity is the Future of Rail Security
In an era where connectivity is king, the importance of a robust cybersecurity infrastructure cannot be overstated.
A 2022 Microsoft Digital Defense Report stated that the nation-state-sponsored attacks targeting critical infrastructures doubled, and they predict it will only continue to accelerate. China, in particular, was observed to be using these attacks for espionage and information stealing.
Rail organizations must implement stringent measures to safeguard passenger data, both within their systems and during transit. This entails a multi-faceted approach, involving strict access control policies, intrusion detection systems, cross-environmental risk management, regular security audits, and employee training to foster a culture of cyber awareness.
As rail systems grow more complex and interconnected, the potential attack surfaces multiply. Network visibility with contextual insights, prioritization, and asset segmentation based on an in-depth understanding of rail operations are critical in mitigating risk and personal data theft and ensuring rail service is unaffected by cyber intrusions and lateral movements.
A breach in rail systems can have far-reaching consequences, not only compromising passengers' privacy but also the operations and reputation of rail companies. These measures ensure that rail networks remain resilient against evolving cyber threats.
Compliance is a Global Issue
The urgency to establish rail cybersecurity compliance regulations has been evident over the past few years. Some countries, the U.S., for example, passed the TSA Security Directives for passenger and freight rail, following a series of significant cyber attacks and threats against national critical infrastructure.
In Europe, compliance extends to data protection regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which mandates stringent requirements for the handling and safeguarding of personal data. Compliance with cybersecurity standards is an essential pillar in the protection of passenger data within the rail industry and failing to adhere to these standards can result in hefty fines and legal consequences.
In an era where rail transportation relies heavily on digital technology, the need for rail cybersecurity cannot be overstated. The protection of passenger data, the prevention of cyberattacks, and the overall safety and efficiency of rail systems depend on it.
Data protection is essential in today’s world and reinforces the notion that cybersecurity is an integral part of the rail industry's future. By implementing a rail cybersecurity solution, rail companies show their commitment to maintaining the highest levels of security and privacy for their passengers, instilling confidence in passengers, regulators, and stakeholders alike.