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

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the no-volume-control-on-this-tv dept.

Hardware Hacking 380

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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how many other "systems" like this? (5, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003392)

I know some kids who are extremely bright, curious, and for lack of a better description, "like to experiment". Any one of these I think could have done the same thing, and with completely innocent (though mischievous) intent. For playing with such big toys in such a fashion there should be repercussions. But the kids I know who also could have done something like this would be much more on track with thinking about how they're moving switches than about what moving those switches implies.

However, I'm led to a different train of thought. What other systems are out there created in the same context, i.e., with little thought to external interference? I'm betting there are a "few". I wonder that in the process of designing something like this if we must pay more attention to the possibility of outsiders tinkering. I hope France's TGV has a bit more built in checks and balances than this. I hope the new Boeing 787 has more security built in than this [news.com.au].

I actually think (and hope) this kid's imagination and curiosity somehow gets channeled rather than squashed. He actually sounds like he could be a contributor. Of course, he's at least grounded for the next month.

Re:how many other "systems" like this? (5, Interesting)

_spider_ (171782) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:how many other "systems" like this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22004072)

You're right, SimCity was a mindless piece of garbage, just like Civilization III. Yeah, Lincoln logs!!!!!!

Re:how many other "systems" like this? (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004152)

I wonder how they caught him??

I mean, if he was stealthy, I don't see how they'd catch him. Did he post a brag about it on MySpace or something?

Re:how many other "systems" like this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22004378)

what part of hacking a tram system is not challenging for a 14 year old? do you really think that a 14 year old that spends his time contemplating, and configuring, then enacting a way of hijacking a tram system remotely, however insecure, would be at all entertained by an erector set?

I didn't think so, in actuality getting him an xbox, ps3, wii, or PC would be more challenging. granted sponge bobs big adventure wouldn't give you much developmental potential but give him the sim city games, in this case roller coster tycoon, and so on. give him a challenge.

Re:how many other "systems" like this? (5, Insightful)

Kelbear (870538) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003808)

14 year olds are young, but not so young to not realize that swapping train tracks around will affect what happens to trains when they reach that section of track. They might not follow that train of thought(pun intended) through to what the actual aftermath may look like, but it's no stretch of intelligence to conclude that a massive train moving at significant speeds will have a significant consequences when directed somewhere unexpectedly.

Not that I'm recommending dire consequences for the boy, I'm just saying that there is probably some malicious intent here, though he probably didn't calculate the magnitude of his mischief either. I'm envisioning something like: "I'm gonna screw around with this and it'll be funny watching them try to fix i--*FOOM*...oh...wow...shit I better go".

(And jeez, whoever designed that system that way is going to have a whole mess of flying poop coming their way).

Re:how many other "systems" like this? (2, Insightful)

SleptThroughClass (1127287) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004228)

As a 14 year old I was quite aware of what would be involved with a train changing tracks, but that is because I actually had studied trains and was consciously aware of the physics involved in their movement. Someone who was focused on the field of electronics might not have considered the physical effects of tons of material being jerked sideways. More NASCAR, fewer video games.

Re:how many other "systems" like this? (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004364)

Its a slow moving tram system, not a high speed commuter train.

The only malice I'd imagine is curiosity.
I probably would have done the same thing at that age just to see if it would work.
Apparently the designers were so stupid that it did work.

Re:how many other "systems" like this? (1)

Fozzyuw (950608) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003858)

What other systems are out there created in the same context, i.e., with little thought to external interference?

They don't want you to pull out your Radio Controller and start making the plane do loop-de-loops. =P

Other Similar Systems: Signal Pre-emption (4, Informative)

Palal (836081) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003860)

In the US many places with newer traffic signal circuitry (at least on the west coast) have something called Signal Pre-Emption [wikipedia.org].

This allows emergency vehicles to by-pass traffic lights by turning them green. It uses an IR transponder on vehicles, and an IR receiver on lights. When a certain frequency (pulse) is sent out from the vehicle and picked up by the receiver, the light turns green.

Before you try to build a device to do that I want to say 2 things:
1. Devices are available on the 'black market', and
2. Every time this signal gets sent, it gets recorded in a log. There have been cases of people getting caught using these and the fines are hefty.


The same system is used, called "Signal Priority" can be used by buses to hold the light green or trigger an early green in various circumstances. (Basically this involves sending out a frequency that's different from Emergency vehicles.

I bet that Lodz uses a similar technology for its trams, but maybe they thought nobody could figure it out, so they simply went with security via obscurity (or whatever the term for it is).

Czech Republic has a single system (as in same system type, not same transponders) in the entire country for its trams and trolley buses and uses something similar to your car key remote.

If anyone manages to figure out how the signal pre-emption works, please post details online :).

Re:Other Similar Systems: Signal Pre-emption (5, Informative)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004170)

Some places have a more inteligent system: The signal turns the light Red (in all directions), and the emergency vechicles just go through the red lights.

Works just as well, and less suceptable to hacks. (Not impossible of course, but less chance of people doing it for their own benifit.)

Re:Other Similar Systems: Signal Pre-emption (1)

Lao-Tzu (12740) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004288)

The downside to that approach is that emergency vehicles encounter cars stopped at a red light at every intersection. Where I live, drivers panic when an emergency vehicle approaches, move their car six inches towards the side of the road, and don't realize they should go through a red light to clear the roadway.

Re:Other Similar Systems: Signal Pre-emption (1)

SidIncognito (953776) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004384)

Except that depending on traffic and circumstances, the emergency vehicle might then get stuck behind a bunch of cars at the red light, and it would take a few seconds at the very least (and probably a cascade of honking) before the driver at the head realizes what's going on and makes way.

Re:Other Similar Systems: Signal Pre-emption (1)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004328)

This allows emergency vehicles to by-pass traffic lights by turning them green. It uses an IR transponder on vehicles, and an IR receiver on lights. When a certain frequency (pulse) is sent out from the vehicle and picked up by the receiver, the light turns green.

Here's something a little funny about those systems.

My father-in-law is an ex-firefighter (just retired at the end of '07) who drove the truck for a couple of years before being promoted to Captain. He absolutely despises the system due to it's unreliability and shortly after it was introduced in our city he stopped even trying to use it all together.

I didn't even know that they existed until a discussion popped up at the dinner table one night and I couldn't help but wonder what kind of potential for abuse there is. Even more ironic that the emergency services themselves don't even use them (well, I can only speak for my father-in-law but from the sounds of it they're hated - at least the implementation in my city).

Re:how many other "systems" like this? (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003862)

"What other systems are out there created in the same context, i.e., with little thought to external interference?"

Our defense and nuclear systems, for one example. I'm sure a /. search would turn up many such incidents.

Engineers who built such... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22004006)

...heinously vulnerable systems are the ones who should get locked up in jail.

Re:how many other "systems" like this? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004018)

He's not a five year old. By fourteen if you don't have a decent handle on consequences then you need to feel some to get you caught up with everyone else. When I was 14 it was old enough to get a learning drivers license. I think they changed that now, but it's still only two years younger than getting a full drivers license, entitling you to pilot a multithousand ton piece of ambulatory steel at high speed. Fourteen is also a common age to start being paid to watch other people's children, ie babysitting.

Re:how many other "systems" like this? (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004054)

I know some kids who are extremely bright, curious, and for lack of
a better description, "like to experiment". Any one of these I think
could have done the same thing, and with completely innocent
(though mischievous) intent. For playing with such big toys in
such a fashion there should be repercussions. But the kids I know who
also could have done something like this would be much more on track
with thinking about how they're moving switches than about what moving
those switches implies.

I'm all for helping creativity grow, but the problem here was that he wasn't thinking about the passengers of these machines he was fucking around with.

Re:how many other "systems" like this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22004304)

I know some kids who are extremely bright, curious, and for lack of a better description, "like to experiment".
I have a better description: sociopath. Regardless of how bright this teenager may be, he did something profoundly selfish and dangerous to satisfy his own curiosity. To do this I would suspect he has to be very apathetic with respect to other people and their property, and probably needs some serious help.

wtf (5, Insightful)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003414)

It should be the enginners and their bosses that should be the ones facing criminal charges.

Re:wtf (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003556)

No bloody kidding. Yeah, the kid was doing what he shouldn't have, but who the hell develops something as critical as switch controls for a $#@!@% tram that can be so easily overridden. I don't buy this "not exposed" BS. That's why, in the old days of manual switches, you had padlocks on them to stop the earlier, low-tech version of this stunt.

Once they've finished throwing the book at this kid, someone ought to look at getting him into a decent technical school. Maybe, in a decade, he can replace the retarded engineers.

Re:wtf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22003734)

Yes what a poor kid, poor little thing was just trying to point out the flaws in the system.

Infact, I think I'll park my car sideways in the middle of the road, when the first guy collides into it, I'll be there saying "Hey, there weren't sufficient precautions to stop it! The terrorists.. not my fault!"

Re:wtf (1)

SargentDU (1161355) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004000)

He's (or She's) a coward, but mod this up. I agree with his or her sarcasm. Engineer's design worked as spec'd.

Re:wtf (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003916)

There are two entire generations who have been disenfranchised from their society, and they won't have any connection to it in the foreseeable future because economics, politics and a population bust have seen to it that there is no peaceful way to have any influence or involvement.

Young people resent the system because in all material ways, it really does disempower them and keep them small and subservient.

The older generation appreciate it because, for them, it does the opposite. For them, it is an expression of and mechanism for empowerment.

That's why young people don't care about the systems that dominate our world, and why old people lend their support to increasingly totalitarian methods of controlling people.

They're not going to let this guy grow into anything that might threaten them. They might use education to specialize and stunt his development until he's utterly dependent on them, then use him as a sort of pet/tool once he has no means by which to make use of any freedom, or they might just stunt and destroy him with confinement.

Re:wtf (1)

Gertlex (722812) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004124)

Once they've finished throwing the book at this kid, someone ought to look at getting him into a decent technical school. Maybe, in a decade, he can replace the retarded engineers.


He's just as "retarded" as the engineers if he indeed did not stop to think of the consequences (derailing of trams) of his hack. Granted, it might well be that with a bit of proper training he'll pay much more attention to the effects of solutions, and end up being the better engineer.

Re:wtf (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004188)

One expects a lack of forethought and responsibility from teenagers. It's practically the defining characteristic of that stage of life. One expects a good deal from adult engineers.

The high cost of evolution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22003678)

Why? Yes security should have been implimented but why should one group have to defend themselves against another group? What does the answer say to our failures as human being even after millions of years of evolution? Do we need another millions of years to get the utopia we claim to desire and will we survive in the mean time?

Re:The high cost of evolution. (2, Interesting)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#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?

Re:The high cost of evolution. (1)

Nossie (753694) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004104)

because padlocks and glass never prevented people from pressing buttons or pulling levers ... catching on yet?

same trick, different environment.

Re:wtf (3, Interesting)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 6 years ago | (#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?

Re:wtf (3, Informative)

eebly (7752) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004040)

Many tram systems have operator-controlled switches. In the old days (and still in some places, like Prague) switches are set by an operator manually. This system appears to basically be the same thing through proximity IR control.
On railroads, switches are mostly controlled from a central dispatch office.

I'm taking the troll -- on encryption, etc. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22003934)

Well, yes and no. Just give a bit of serious thought to the issue... I'm at work, have to AC.

It sounds as though the system worked of infrared pulse encoding, and that is why he could use a modified television remote. Imagine you are the one designing this (probably in the 1970's or 1980's...) It is generally desirable to keep things simple to ensure they actually *work* -- that is, having a rolling code that may be out of sync while having a signalling train hurtle toward the junction at 80 mph is not desirable -- you want a simple system that the train can activate if needed.

Anybody who has worked with security (my job) knows that the more layers you add, the harder (network) testing is, and the more ways something can go VERY wrong for a legitimate user.

If the train couldn't switch the junction box because it didn't have the right "password," you would also criticize the engineers.

I defend the train design -- this should be treated as sabotage, and is more along the continuum of putting a penny on the tracks or mechanically interfering with a junction box, things that are also dangerous, illegal, and difficult to defend entirely against.

Re:wtf (1)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004070)

Why is it whenever their is a story like this on /. people come running out of the woodwork to say how the designers should be the ones to face criminal charges. Why do we defend the "precious snowflakes" when they were the ones that consciously and willfully committed the act? Unless they can find proof where the designers and engineers said "Hey lets make this system easy to hack so we can watch some kid play havoc with our system and maybe even get some one killed", I would be hard pressed to say they are at fault. Just becuase some kid is inventive or clever doesn't mean that he also can't be a criminal.

wtf-accountability. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22004232)

Simple really. Because we all want to be those people. But we can't be if the world holds us acountable for doing so.

New terrorist plot for TV (4, Interesting)

Sciros (986030) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003418)

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.

Re:New terrorist plot for TV (4, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003966)

This kid does deserve to get in trouble, though, big-time. You don't go around derailing trams, that's not cool.

I'm surprised nobody has asked the obvious question. Switches normally switch between two tracks. How does switching a train to a different track cause it to derail? Collide, sure, but derail? Sounds like a design problem to me... or a whole lot of design problems if it is possible for it to switch when a train is in the middle of the switch, as I suspect occurred. There should be safety interlocks to prevent switching from even being possible as long as a weight sensor at the switch is depressed.

It strikes me that this kid not only found a security flaw in the system, but also found at least one very serious safety flaw that could have occurred due to electronics glitches even if he hadn't done this. It could have ben a lot worse, particularly if those same switching systems are used for any high-speed trains....

Re:New terrorist plot for TV (3, Insightful)

anno1602 (320047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004062)

Speculation: An alternative explanation would be that the two curves were of different diameter, and the driver intended to take the larger-diameter one, traveling at a speed too high for the sharper curve the tram ended up taking. Tram lines sometimes take pretty sharp turns.

Re:New terrorist plot for TV (1)

mi (197448) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004150)

How does switching a train to a different track cause it to derail? Collide, sure, but derail?

First, the alternative track may not be "right" for the tram — old/decrepit, too curvy for the tram's usual speed, etc.

Second the driver(s) may have panicked and done something stupid because of the sudden change of direction...

Re:New terrorist plot for TV (1)

greed (112493) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004156)

It's all about the speed.

Generally, you can proceed straight through a switch at full speed, green-over-green on many signaling systems for "no worries".

But if the switch is thrown, you must travel at a much lower speed, depending on the track configuration, anything from a slow walk to a sprint is the kind of speeds we're talking about. Yellow-over-yellow, say.

Tram tracks often have very sharp bends in them, so you're in slow walk territory. Plus, if it's an old-fashioned trolley pole system like Toronto's, you are also at risk of having the pole come off the overhead wire. (There's an inertial reel with a rope on the end of the pole, so if it does come off the wire, it doesn't snap all the way up, and there's a handy rope the operator can use to plug the tram back in.)

Toronto's streetcars are required to "stop, then proceed" at all switches because of past collisions and derailments from switchgear failure. It used to be "slow, then proceed", but that wasn't enough to prevent crashes. And it still happens; there was a collision on the Spadina 510 line last year blamed on a switching error. (I _think_ what happened is that the switch operated while the car had one truck on either side, so the back end of the car tried to turn into the oncoming car's path. The operator would have seen the switch was correct when he started up, but it didn't remain correct.)

Even if all that happens is the tram loses power and stops suddenly, that's enough for injuries as standing passengers get thrown forward. Emergency braking when a car cuts off the tram can do the same thing.

Another possibility is abandoned lines where the switches are still operational. It would be a good idea to disable the remote actuators on those ones, but hey, if they're using consumer-type IR remotes already....

I suppose I could always read the article. Nah....

Law enforcement differences (5, Funny)

KaiserSoze (154044) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003460)

Good thing he wasn't in the United States, where he'd be charged with terrorism, waterboarded, sodomized with a broom handle and thrown in Guantanamo Bay forever. The Department of Homeland Security would then increase the Train Flight Security Awareness Threat to Indigo, and the attorney general would trumpet the great work that the US Government is doing to prevent further Terrorist Train Derailments.

Re:Law enforcement differences (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003598)

..with a broom handle and thrown in Guantanamo Bay forever.
Nah, I doubt that would have happened - this was an white kid. But if he'd been, um, not white....o yeah, they would have totally gone Abu Ghraib on him.

Re:Law enforcement differences (1)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003616)

Actually with minors they spray them with a super soaker and hand them over to Catholic priests. The threat alone usually does the trick.

Re:Law enforcement differences (1)

Arkus (15103) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003870)

I got quite the laugh out of your post, if I had any mod points right now you would have got one!

Special security training? (3, Insightful)

Optic7 (688717) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003500)

Does it really take special security training for engineers to realize that controlling train junctions with TV remote controls (or close enough) might be a bad idea? Where's the whatcouldpossiblygowrong tag when you need it?

Re:Special security training? (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003628)

They're engineers, what do you expect? They designed a system that made it easy to change the junctions without someone having to physically throw a switch to change the tracks. More than likely, no one, including the people who provide the specifications for this device, thought about security. The idea was to make the job of switching tracks easier.

Which succeeded.

Re:Special security training? (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004190)

Exactly. Previously, anybody could throw the switch. Now, anybody can use a remote. Not much difference, really.

Re:Special security training? (1)

Arkus (15103) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003924)

More than likely they were looking to make it work at the lowest cost, but who knows how long ago that system was deisigned.
Microsoft just started to get a clue about security in the past couple years and they've been writing software for two decades!

Re:Special security training? (1)

starfishsystems (834319) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003996)

Does it really take special security training

It's hard to see how anyone with a brain could have not considered the implication of a stray signal setting off the switch actuator, potentially causing loss of life.

I own an area of land which I've thought, somewhat idly, would suit an aerial tramway for moving building materials onto the site. The first thing that crossed my mind was not was how to engineer the rigging. That's textbook stuff. No, my first concern was whether it would be possible to build a remote control that would fail safe.

Re:Special security training? (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004308)

This wasn't a stray signal. Even TV remotes are engineered to prevent stray signals from working. The system wasn't engineered to prevent generation of malicious signals, probably because that wasn't in the spec.

Leave it to the Polish! (-1, Troll)

Talen317 (1131949) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003520)

Well hopefully these same engineers are not the ones designing their nuclear power plants!

And not that I have anything aginst the Polish, but on some level there is probably a kernel of truth in all those polish jokes.

lol (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22003530)

that sounds fun!! if people didn't get hurt, I mean!

Obligatory tasteless Polack joke. (0, Troll)

Chas (5144) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003538)

"driver attempting to steer his vehicle to the right was involuntarily taken to the left."

Uh. Sounds about right... ;-)

Re:Obligatory tasteless Polack joke. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22004060)

A Russian and Polish soldier are sitting in a bar drinking and start talking. Eventually, the Pole says, "I've always wondered, why do the Russian soldiers wear red uniforms?"

The Russian answers, "So that if, in battle, one of us is shot and begins bleeding, the other soldiers won't see the blood and lose morale."

The Pole answers, "Oh! That's why we wear brown pants!"

Re:Obligatory tasteless Polack joke. (2, Funny)

dorix (414150) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004184)

Long ago, when sailing ships ruled the sea, this captain and his crew were always in danger of being boarded by pirates from a pirate ship.

One day while they were sailing, they saw that a pirate ship had sent a boarding party to try and board their ship. The crew became worried, but the Captain was calm.

He bellowed to his First Mate, "Bring me my red shirt!"

The First Mate quickly got the Captain's red shirt, which the captain put on. Then he led his crew into battle against the mean pirates. Although there were some casualties among the crew, the pirates were defeated.

Later that day, the lookout screamed that there were two pirate vessels sending two boarding parties towards their ship. The crew was nervous, but the Captain, calm as ever, bellowed, "Bring me my red shirt!" And once again the battle was on!

The Captain and his crew fought off the boarding parties, though this time more casualties occurred.

Weary from the battles, the men sat around on deck that night recounting the day's events when an ensign looked at the Captain and asked, "Sir, why did you call for your red shirt before the battle?"

The Captain, giving the ensign a look that only a captain can give, explained, "If I am wounded in battle, the red shirt does not show the blood, so you men will continue to fight unafraid." The men sat in silence. They were amazed at the courage of such a man.

As dawn came the next morning, the lookout screamed that there were pirate ships, 10 of them, all with boarding parties on their way. The men became silent and looked to the Captain, their leader, for his usual command.

The Captain, calm as ever, bellowed, 'Bring me my brown pants!!!'

Re:Obligatory tasteless Polack joke. (1)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004138)

"driver attempting to steer his vehicle to the right was involuntarily taken to the left."

Uh. Sounds about right... ;-)
How exactly is this a troll? That's quite... natural.
Or are you going to tell me that an american, a ruskie or a german would reflexively act differently? For those who failed to get the parent's joke, there are some backwards islands where people drive on the wrong side of the road...

Re:Obligatory tasteless Polack joke. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22004296)

All the newspapers quoted are British, but the thing happened in Poland, not UK.

Telegraph article (3, Funny)

ddrichardson (869910) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003544)

Here is the article in the Telegraph [telegraph.co.uk].

I particularly enjoyed the phrase:

The incident is the latest in which "hackers" - many of them young computer experts - have broken into computer systems.

As they then list two incedents since 1999 and the Boeing 787 concern.

Wee! (1)

Sir_Eptishous (873977) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003614)

Forget the tv remote.
Imagine what chaos aspiring electronics buffs will be able to create with Wii controllers!

Re:Wee! (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003874)

Imagine what chaos aspiring electronics buffs will be able to create with Wii controllers!

Fortunately more useful things like an interactive whiteboard [blogspot.com] for $40. The only problem I've had is trying to get my hand on a Wii Remote to try it out but the idea is brilliant...at least if you are a professor: I can teach them physics at the same time as using physics to teach!

Re:Wee! (1)

TheBlunderbuss (852707) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004416)

The Wii controllers wouldn't do anything IR-receiving systems, like one the article mentions.
Wiimotes aren't IR transmitters. They receive IR from the single "sensor bar", which is an array of IR LEDs. This makes it easier to get pointer data from multiple Wiimotes, rather than having a single receiver be flooded with IR.
So, just like how the TV shoots NES Zapper light gun, the sensor bar shoots the Wiimotes.

Good thing this isn't the US (1, Insightful)

matt4077 (581118) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003638)

In some law systems, he'd probably be labeled a terrorist, charged with attempted murder (if he even gets a criminal trial) and spend 10 years in jail. Let's hope Poland is more civilized, I'd guess humiliation from the trial plus quite a lot of hours of community service will frighten him enough to never cross the line again. Then again, his parents will probably be ruined as they'll have to pay the damages.

Needs a challenge (2, Insightful)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003646)

Sounds like this kid was not adequately challenged by his school. At least that's what the story leads me to believe. If I was the judge I would let him off on the condition that he goes to a school where his curiosity will be encouraged but given enough direction so he doesn't get into more trouble.

Re:Needs a challenge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22004374)

What does that have to do with anything? The kid exercised poor judgement and weak morals. I don't care if he's bored at school, it doesn't then follow that he must derail trains.

OK, I have to ask (4, Funny)

Critical Facilities (850111) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003664)

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


IANATE (I Am Not A Tram Expert), but if it was on RAILS, how or why would you STEER it?

Re:OK, I have to ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22003978)

Usually, tram switches are not controlled by a central switchbox (like real railways), but by the driver or a computer in the vehicle, using radio or infrared control.

Re:OK, I have to answer (1)

circusboy (580130) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003994)

train tracks have switches/points in order to take one route or another.

Re:OK, I have to answer (2, Informative)

MistrBlank (1183469) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004128)

And my guess is the conductor normally controls these switches with remote... not the kid outside of the train with a hacked TV remote.

Re:OK, I have to ask (4, Informative)

ThreeGigs (239452) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004074)

Tram line 21 runs east to west.
Tram line 19 runs east to west on 21's tracks, then turns onto a north-south track heading south.

Driver of 19 sets his left-straight-right turn lever to broadcast "right".
Kid overrides with a left, lead car turns left.
Kid stops overriding, the junction again sees the signal on the tram to switch to turn right, and the second car goes right, causing a derailment.

In the US, most remote junction switches have a fail-safe that prevents the tracks from switching if there's a car over the junction, thus preventing driver error or malicious external elements from causing a derailment by making the train go in 2 directions at once. Apparently no such fail-safe is present on the systems in Lodz (pronounced 'woodj' in Polish).

Re:OK, I have to ask (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004196)

So then one HAS to ask; why have the switches at all? It would be a lot safter if each tram route had it's own track. Not only that but centralized control over the space in between the trams would make it even safer. Not only that, it also makes stations easier. If one station serves two routes then the place to get on each route would be different from each other and hence one physical location at a station would always correspond to the same tram route. Just thinking out loud here. Isn't this how the Underground in London works?

Re:OK, I have to ask (1)

anno1602 (320047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004098)

Trams switches are usually controlled via some kind of remote command from the tram, not centrally. So, the tram driver can - at least at switches - indeed steer the tram.

scary genius (1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003668)

It's fun to hear about these kinds of events if no one got hurt. But, at th same time it's rather frightening the though of someone with an intellect like that with a lot of time on their hands and no productive outlet to use it.
Think what could be accomplished if people like this where given access to what they needed and had the same motivation when it came to curing cancer.

Why is it that... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22003686)

Why is it that facility operators, be it trains, power plants, oil refineries, or anything have pathetic security, and when something does happen, they blame it totally on the perp who likely never had to confront even a single lock, much less a guard?

Makes me wonder if countries should have a special regulatory team whose job it is to attempt break ins on a regular basis to various areas, and levy fines to organizations failing compliance. Only problem is areas where people shoot to kill... telling a tiger team from a genuine trespasser/burglar/criminal before pulling the trigger.

Re:Why is it that... (1)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004412)

Only problem is areas where people shoot to kill... telling a tiger team from a genuine trespasser/burglar/criminal before pulling the trigger.

If the team is seriously concerned about being shot, I think it's safe to give that facility a stamp of approval without even attempting a break in.

Welcome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22003866)

I, for one, would like to welcome our new TV remote modifying overlords.

A cry for help (1)

funk1337 (730068) | more than 6 years ago | (#22003944)

Poor child. Its just a cry for help! Don't you people understand? I mean, if I were the judge, I'd show leniency and send him to genius school where he could be challenged and nurture his growth! I'd give him flowers and positive reinforcement that he is a good person, and its OK! Everyone is a winner! Even if he killed someone, I'd say, "Well, then they should have never been on that tram anyway...my little snookem wookems. Now go run and play!" Fucking retards...

ten out of ten (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22003946)

"OK, so ten out of ten for style, but minus several million for good thinking, yeah?"

Fire the safety department (2, Interesting)

alextheseal (653421) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

14 Year old? (0, Troll)

tristian_was_here (865394) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004140)

That 14 year old obviously has no life, plays video games and is probably fat due to the fact he does not go out and eat McDonald's.

A shame indeed (1)

thorkyl (739500) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004206)

That the kid had no other outlet.
That security was so lax
That the trains switch gear actually responded to a TV remote

At least he did not go after the EuroRail or other high speed train

Yes, there's an RF remote for the thing (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004208)

This is a street tram switching system similar to the Elektroline [elektroline.cz] system. It's not a full signalling system with interlocking. The tram driver is in control, and has an RF transmitter which can control switches. The current generation, the "TRAMVYS 6K", is an RF transmitter on 433.9 or 868.35 MHz. Normal range is very short, about 2M, with the transmitter down on the front truck of the tram and the receiver buried in the road. But it could probably be triggered by someone at the side of the street with a suitable transmitter. This system is interlocked so that the switch can't change position underneath a tram.

That's current technology. Older systems are much dumber [google.com]. Some of this stuff is at the garage-door-opener level of RF devices. The Lodz tram system dates from 1898, so they have lots of legacy trackwork.

lol (1)

usmc0656 (1176703) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004258)

And just think...he did this with a little recon work of the depots and a tv remote. Now imagine would someone else could do with financial backing, fanatical devotion, and a little bit of high explosives. The little guy should be punished...but I think the train system itself should face some consequences. I'm all for ease of use...but I think a little extra security could be used when a 14 year old with a tv remote and a bit of time can cause this much chaos.

Where are those engineers who designed that system (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004282)

I have a hunch they decided there is no money in building highly insecure hardware systems and moved on to write highly insecure software systems. No prizes for guessing their current employer.

Not an Engineering Problem (1)

asphaltjesus (978804) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004322)

Let's all do a reality check.

1. Engineering was likely given a number of constraints that can not be ignored. For example, build it in 6 months at a final BOM cost of $Y.

2. Picture a small hill with the railroad purchasing agents on the top. On one side is the manufacturer of switch, on the other, the boy. Sh!t rolls downhill onto both parties.

It's a pity the boy has to be made an example of.

Well (1)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 6 years ago | (#22004434)

From an average citizen's perspective I have got to say: Shame on you, this is dangerous and worse thing could have happened

From a nerd's perspective I have got to say: That is friggin awesome!!1!
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