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Have you planned your train’s next visit to the cyber doctor?

The heart pumps blood through our arteries to our vital organs. Data centers push bytes through networks to computers and end users. Both are well-functioning complex systems that we tend to take for granted. But both are prone to disruptions, often from external threats.

Just as human viruses attack the weak links in a person’s body, so digital viruses and hackers attack the weak links in digital systems. They also need protection, such as vaccinations, monitoring, patches, and sanitation. Their medicine is cybersecurity, so they need cyber “doctors” to monitor their health. The bywords are protect, detect, identify, respond, and recover to improve resilience and ensure system security.

Rail systems are particularly vulnerable. They have traditionally been designed for safety to make their “skeletons” robust enough to withstand accidents. With the transition to the digital age, new threats are springing up from increased passenger and system connectivity. Passenger data theft, ransomware, and denial of service have been the most publicized, but they are only the tip of the iceberg. So like good doctors, cybersecurity experts have to keep their knowledge up-to-date. New vulnerabilities, attack techniques, and threats appear every day.  

Need for a cybersecurity cure, built-in or added-on

Thales designs cybersecured solutions for the transport market that benefit from its experience with other critical systems, from banking to military operations. Combining its expertise in transport, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and cybersecurity, Thales’s solutions facilitate maintenance and patching of railway systems, and ensure their longevity.

The question is how to rejuvenate the “old guys”, the legacy railways still in use, to fight off the new threats? It starts with regular check-ups consisting of assessment, monitoring and detection, moving on to minimum intrusive controls, such as perimeter protection, and to internal processes, such as scanning and awareness training. If the diagnosis is bad enough, it’s time for surgery - replacing parts of the system.

 “Thales is like the family doctor. With in-depth knowledge of what’s inside a system and up-to-date information on the latest vulnerabilities, it can recommend preventive treatment if necessary,” says Benoit Bruyere, Senior Cybersecurity Authority at Thales. “By monitoring the health of a railway system we can fight threats before they do damage. Stress testing key components, we help our customers meet the stringent certifications of transport authorities.”