14-year-old Hacker Derails Train

Dennis Faas's picture

On Tuesday, January 8 Adam Dabrowski, 14, managed to turn the tram system in the town of Lodz, Poland into his own plaything. Dabrowski was able to rig a TV remote control to change track points causing trams to veer in unintended directions.

The problems became apparent when one of the operators tried steering his train to the right only to find it veering out of control in the opposite direction, jumping the track and crashing into an oncoming tram. Four vehicles were derailed during Dabrowski's stint at the helm, with twelve people injured. (Source: metro.co.uk)

It didn't take police long to figure out that this was the work of a hacker. "He studied the trams and the tracks for a long time and then built a device that looked like a TV remote control and used it to manoeuvre the trams and the tracks," said Miroslav Micor, spokesman for the Lodz Police Department. "He had converted the television control into a device capable of controlling all the junctions on the line and wrote in the pages of a school exercise book where the best junctions were to move trams around and what signals to change." (Source: theregister.co.uk)

Tram systems are often designed with little knowledge about, or attention to, security providing big loopholes for hackers to exploit. Dabrowski, an avid electronics buff, said he created the stunt as a prank. "He treated it like any other schoolboy might a giant train set, but it was lucky nobody was killed...[Trams] had to make emergency stops that left passengers hurt," added Micor. "He clearly did not think about the consequences of his actions."

Dabrowski faces charges of endangering public safety and is due to appear in juvenile court.

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