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Cybersecurity in the railway sector

por Julian

Cybersecurity is crucial in protecting digital systems against threats. It ensures the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of data and services, which is critical in sectors such as transport. Therefore, it is essential to invest in protection and awareness-raising measures to mitigate risks and maintain stability and trust in the digital environment.

Technologies based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) are making their way into the railway sector, a field where they have great potential for development and where they will play an increasingly prominent role. The use of these developments opens up a wide range of possibilities to make the railway a safer, more efficient, sustainable, and attractive mode of transport.
The Spanish railway sector, like other critical transport systems, is undergoing a rapid digital transformation to improve efficiency, safety, and user experience.

However, this modernisation also leads to an increase in the cyberattack surface, which poses significant challenges in terms of cybersecurity.

Railway infrastructure
is becoming increasingly interconnected
and automated.

Railway infrastructure, including train networks, signalling systems, traffic control systems, passenger information systems and other critical components, is becoming increasingly interconnected and automated.

It is also precisely this interconnection that greatly increases the risks of cyberattacks, which could have major consequences, such as service interruptions and reputational damage and including emergency situations and risks to public safety.

Specific cybersecurity challenges in the railway industry include industrial control systems (ICS) protection, wireless communications security, remote access management, early threat detection, and rapid response to cyber incidents, among others.

Specific cybersecurity challenges in the railway industry include industrial control systems (ICS) protection, wireless communications security, remote access management, early threat detection, and rapid response to cyber incidents, among others.
In addition, a close collaboration is required between different players in the sector, as well as with government bodies and cybersecurity organisations, to share information on threats, best practices, and innovative solutions.

In this context, cybersecurity has become a key priority for railway authorities, transport operators, equipment manufacturers and service providers. Advanced safety measures and solutions are being implemented to protect critical assets and ensure the operational continuity of the railway system.

The downside of this evolution is the vulnerability of almost 100 percent dependence on this technology. And the darkest shadow hanging over this advance, across all sectors, is cybersecurity: modernisation has also increased the attack surface and gateways for cybercriminals.

Connectivity based on the use of various communication technologies such as IP protocols, Wi-Fi, GPRS standards, 4G, 5G, etc., open networks that were previously closed, and become access routes for cyberattacks.

Due to the interconnection of systems, a successful attack on a component can have cascading consequences, managing to paralyse the railway operation, or causing massive disruptions, affecting passenger and cargo safety, and ultimately wiping out the operation of the entire network.

In addition, the system as a whole works with the concept that in the event of a problem, it will move to a higher level of security, which at its height would mean ‘bringing all trains to a standstill’, and this is in itself one of the objectives of a cyberattack: the downtime.

The Spanish railway sector is exposed to a variety of cyberthreats, ranging from attacks perpetrated by governmental agents to individual criminals and organised groups. In addition, internal threats, such as staff negligence or unauthorised access, also pose significant risks. Cybersecurity awareness and staff training are crucial aspects, as employees can be the first line of defence against cyberthreats, but only if they are properly informed and prepared.

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