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Fears have been raised for the safety of rail passengers after hackers sponsored by foreign governments broke into the network's systems four times in the past year.
This has enabled computer specialists to hack into the systems that control physical infrastructure on the railways, such as signals.
Experts have said this could create 'mayhem' as they could force trains off the rails or make them collide.
At present, most of the British rail network still uses analogue technology, which is not susceptible to an internet-based attack.
However this is gradually being phased out by digital systems.
The European Rail Traffic Management System, which uses wireless technology to control the speed of trains, is being introduced in 2018.
By gaining access to the systems that manage trains, they have the potential to create 'real disaster related to train safety'.
Sergey Gordeychik, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, told Sky News their ability to cause lasting damage was 'scary'.
He told the broadcaster: 'We see at the moment that state sponsored attackers are already inside critical infrastructure.
'Hackers can get access not only to simple things like online information boards or in-train entertainment, but also to computer systems which manage trains by itself, which manage signals, manage points, and in this case, if they have enough knowledge, then they can create real disaster related to train safety.'
He added: 'They could change the points when a train passes over it. Trains could go off the rails and this could cause a crash.'
Hackers could get access not only to simple things like online information boards but also, more worryingly, to computer systems which manage trains by itself and could create 'real disaster', experts have warned
UK SECURITY CYBER UPSTARTDarktrace uses advanced machine learning and mathematics developed at the University of Cambridge to identify abnormalities in a company's IT network that might be an attack.
It makes technology that uses advanced probability algorithms to detect security threats in corporate networks.
The four recent attacks on UK rail were discovered by Darktrace, a private security company which guards much of the UK rail network.
Dave Palmer, the chief technology officer of Darktrace, told the Telegraph: 'In an era of imperfect defences and increasingly complex networks, determined threats can always get in.
'Today, all businesses can be affected, regardless of size or sector.'
Network Rail said: 'Britain has the safest major railway in Europe and cyber security is a key part of our plan for introducing digital train control technology.
'Safety is our top priority, which is why we work closely with government, the security services, our partners and suppliers in the rail industry and security specialists to combat cyber threats.'
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: 'We keep rail security under constant review and we are working with industry to ensure that all risks to the rail network and other infrastructure are minimised.'
This article first appeared on www.dailymail.co.uk
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