Poland’s authorities investigate a hacking attack on country’s railways

The Polish domestic security agency is investigating a hacking attack on the national railways, Polish media report.

Poland’s Internal Security Agency (ABW) and national police have launched an investigation into a hacking attack on the state’s railway network. According to the Polish Press Agency, the attack disrupted the traffic overnight last week.

Stanisław Zaryn, deputy coordinator of special services, told the news agency that Polish authorities are investigating an unauthorized usage of the system used to control rail traffic.

“For the moment, we are ruling nothing out,” Stanislaw Zaryn told PAP. “We know that for some months there have been attempts to destabilise the Polish state,” he added. “Such attempts have been undertaken by the Russian Federation in conjunction with Belarus.”

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Poland’s railway system represented a crucial transit infrastructure for Western countries’ support of Ukraine.

Zaryn explained that the attacks are part of a broader activity conducted by Russia to destabilize Poland.

“Such attempts are being made by the Russian Federation in cooperation with Belarus, and also for this reason we do not underestimate any signals that come to the ABW,” Zaryn said.

The attack took place on Saturday, threat actors transmitted a signal that triggered an emergency status that stopped the trains near the city of Szczecin. According to the media, the attack stopped at least 20 trains and paralyzed the traffic for hours.

Wired reported that the saboteurs have used simple so-called “radio-stop” commands via radio frequency to the targeted trains. It is quite easy to spoof radio-stop commands due to the lack of encryption or authentication for the radio system used in Poland’s railway systems.

The cyber security expert Lukasz Olejnik told Wired that “anyone with as little as $30 of off-the-shelf radio equipment can broadcast the command to a Polish train—sending a series of three acoustic tones at a 150.100 megahertz frequency—and trigger their emergency stop function.”

“It is three tonal messages sent consecutively. Once the radio equipment receives it, the locomotive goes to a halt,” Olejnik says, pointing to a document outlining trains’ different technical standards in the European Union that describes the “radio-stop” command used in the Polish system. In fact, Olejnik says that the ability to send the command has been described in Polish radio and train forums and on YouTube for years. “Everybody could do this. Even teenagers trolling. The frequencies are known. The tones are known. The equipment is cheap.”

Poland’s national transportation agency plans to upgrade the country’s railway systems by 2025 but since then the Polish railways will continue to use a weak radio system.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Polish railways)

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