System hacks could lead to train accidents

Movies abound that contain scenes of runaway trains. This is understandable as a train barreling down the tracks with no one at the helm is one of the most frightening things imaginable. But of course, thanks to modern safeguards, such a thing could never really happen today, right? Well, actually, there is a possibility that a train could be hijacked in such a way that its operators would have no power to bring it to a safe stop.

You see, today's trains employ cyber systems that can be hacked. According to a 2015 report produced by a research group, hackers pose threats to railroads on three fronts. First, a railroad's financial records could be accessed, leading to financial losses. Secondly, control of the communication systems could be captured, impeding service and causing delays.

But the final, and scariest possibility is that of someone taking over railroad controls and signals. Such a scenario could result in a derailment or other serious accident. And this kind of event is not merely the subject of speculation. It actually happened in Poland in 2008, when a hacker breached a railroad's security protocols and was able to control trains remotely.

We can only hope that the computer systems used to control California's railroads are as hack-proof as possible. But keep this in mind; over this past Thanksgiving weekend, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency lost $50,000 worth of revenue thanks to a hack that employed a kind of program called "ransomware."

Railroad companies have a duty to make sure that their automated systems function properly and cannot be compromised by hackers or internal glitches. If you or a member of your family have been injured in a train accident, an experienced personal injury attorney can investigate the event to determine its cause. If the evidence points to the railroad company being in some way negligent, you may wish to pursue a lawsuit to recover damages.

Source: Geektime.com, "Ransomware attack on California mass transit is a sign of the times," Paul Mutter, Dec. 12, 2016

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