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Siemens explains to Rail Express how digitalisation in rail requires a focus on cyber security.
On June 19, Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned Australian businesses and agencies that they were under a sustained cyber- attack from a sophisticated state-based actor. Rather than describing the nature of a singular attack, Morrison outlined the constant and ongoing threat that Australia’s critical infrastructure was facing.
This reminder of the cyber threat that Australia was facing aligned with what Serge Maillet, head of industrial cyber security, Siemens Australia and New Zealand, has observed.
“Over the past 12-18 months there’s been a significant increase in terms of cyber-attacks that Australia is seeing across all industries. This is happening world-wide but unfortunately Australia is among the top 10 countries being targeted.”
Based on data from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a US think tank, Australia is the sixth most targeted country for cyber-attacks, with 16 significant attacks between May 2006 and June 2020. The nature of these attacks is not leaving the rail industry unscathed.
“Any entity attempting cyber threats, also known as threat actors, are increasingly targeting a lot of our critical infrastructure. Rail is certainly part of that critical infrastructure,” said Maillet.
The types of attacks that are occurring are the intrusion of malware due to failed security controls, in many cases, due to human error.
“The reality is that the majority of organisations in Australia are going to be attacked at some stage. The only variables are the type of attack vector, the size of impacts and if the attack is going to be successful or not,” said Maillet. “If it is a successful attack, you want to make sure that you’ve got measures in place to be able to recover from those attacks and bring the critical systems back online as quickly as possible, while minimising any negative impacts on public safety or production.”
THE CONVERGENCE OF IT AND OT
What has made the rail sector and critical infrastructure particularly susceptible to cyber-attacks, and why governments are concerned is the convergence of what were previously two separate systems, information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT).
“While cyber-attacks have been able to target data in an IT environment, the interconnection of IT with OT opens the potential for threat actors to penetrate machines and processes, causing significant harm,” said Maillet.
“If we look at OT in the context of rail, it’s really about machines and process control. This could be rail signalling, rail control, automation, telemetry and more.”
Previously, these systems were insulated from cyber-attacks due to their lack of connection to external or untrusted networks. While IT systems were constantly being patched with new software, OT systems ran on their own proprietary technology, and did not require regular updates.
“Because of that there’s been a lack of focus from organisations on their own OT systems from a security perspective,” said Maillet. “Now that we’re seeing a lot of convergence and hyper convergence happening between IT and OT it’s creating a lot of new challenges, especially for industrial applications, and it’s increasing the risk profile of our critical infrastructure.”
In addition, while enterprise IT is expected to have a lifecycle of three to five years, OT devices are often expected to run for 20 years, if not longer. As these older systems are beginning to be integrated with the wider rail IT network through the process of digitalisation, safety critical technology is becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attacks, said Maillet.
“The challenge from that perspective is that a lot of the legacy OT devices that are still in operation today for a lot of critical infrastructure were never designed with security in mind, because they were never intended to be converged with IT.”
While digitalisation promises and has delivered many benefits to rail networks, the issue of cyber vulnerability and exposure are sometimes overlooked, and the cost of digitalisation is only accounted for in financial terms, not in terms of cyber security, cautioned Maillet.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF DIGITALISATION
To some, the solution may look simple. Why not just update the software that runs these safety critical systems, or install the latest security patch? This is easier said than done, Maillet points out.
“In OT infrastructure the priority is always going to be to maintain the safety, reliability, availability, and integrity of those platforms. So, when you look at putting in a new patch or making a configuration change, that will always introduce potential risk to jeopardise the availability or performance of that system. Often, these elements will take priority over the actual integrity of the system.”
That’s not to say that the patches are not available. Many OT systems run on operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, which have has regular security patch updates to account for vulnerabilities identified in the system. Trying to find a time when the system that controls a rail network can be taken offline for an upgrade is tricky.
Another limit on the possibility of upgrading these systems is the potential for human error. Stephen Baker, head of product innovation and through-life support at Siemens Mobility says that this leads to a bunker-like mentality.
“The problem is that you end up with an infrastructure that is safe and reliable, but you can’t do anything with it, you can’t run analytics, you can’t do downstream processing. The convergence of OT and IT can’t be put on hold.
“Let’s face it,” said Baker. “You can imagine what would happen if all of a sudden you stopped running trains in Melbourne or Sydney because the operation of a vital network has been compromised.”
DEALING WITH AN EVOLVING THREAT
To mitigate the threat of a cyber-attack while still reaping the benefits of digitalisation Siemens have developed a full cycle of expertise that is focused on the people, processes, and technologies that can keep a rail system functioning.
“Industrial security, which includes rail security, is really a dynamic topic. Because the risks are constantly evolving and changing in nature, it’s creating a lot of challenges. So, our job at Siemens is to help our customers better understand where those vulnerabilities are and what types of solutions are best to maximise the security posture of a system,” said Maillet.
When working in the rail industry in particular, Siemens have developed solutions designed for rail.
“When we look at mainline train systems or metro systems, we know that they are deploying a lot of Industry 4.0 technologies, a lot of digitalisation, which is increasing the operational efficiency and reliability of those systems,” said Maillet. “We also have to ensure that we implement technologies that enhance cyber security for the network that the trains systems operate on, as well as the control systems that manage the rail infrastructure.”
With 90 per cent of successful cyber- attacks due to human error, the solution must begin with people.
“We know that even if you have all the right technology put in place, if your people do the wrong thing due to lack of awareness or not having the right level of training in cyber security, then that’s likely to expose a vulnerability,” said Maillet.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as plugging a USB into a computer. If it’s a computer asset in an OT environment, that USB could easily introduce a vulnerability. Another common breakdown is when someone clicks on an email that they shouldn’t which can create a virtual doorway for a threat actor to bypass the security measures that have been put into place to protect critical assets.”
The next step is the processes. In a rail organisation these processes could include how staff fix issues, how assets are managed and what procedures are in place to ensure that assets are maintained securely.
The final piece is the technology, and here Siemens is working on solutions that can enhance the secure digitalisation of rail. Andrew Chan, development engineer at Siemens Mobility’s Centre of Excellence, describes how the company is looking at extracting information from a digital rail asset without the potential risk of exposing it to external attacks.
“A data diode basically allows data to flow in one direction and in that way, we can safely get safety critical information from our axle counters and interlockings out into the IT environment. That’s where we can do amazing things with data.”
Other technologies that Siemens are deploying include edge processing for intrusion detection, and cloud services to mine data for cyber security analytics.
Servicing all areas is an example of Siemens’s distinct approach, said Baker.
“We’re probably one of the few total solution providers – we design the interlocking hardware, we design the control systems, all the network requirements and defences are part of the safety case, we design the networks and even the analytics, so every layer is internal. We’re one of the few organisations that can give you everything from broad level design of the signals and the railways, right through to the cloud analytics which tells the asset owner how the infrastructure is performing.”
While Siemens has a number of areas of the business which deal with rail cyber security, its industrial security services provide the hardware and software services, as well as professional services to rail customers.
These industrial cyber security solutions are provided across three key pillars, security assessments, security optimisation, and security management, all underpinned by holistic approach to industrial security, known as the Defence in Depth security framework.
“Defence in Depth is having as many security measures and layers in the infrastructure as possible based on well-known security best-practices and frameworks. It provides us the ability to have a depth of staggered defences in infrastructure,” said Maillet.
As Australia grapples with the increasing cyber threat, increasing resilience will be a key factor in the success of the digitalisation of rail.
Metro Trains Melbourne’s Comeng, Siemens and X’Trapolis fleets have undergone major maintenance to ensure the trains are kept to the highest standard and improve the experience for passengers.
Melbourne trains are being retrofitted with wireless data recorders to monitor key train systems, improve safety and reliability, and maintenance, enabling the trains are available to run on the network more often.
The On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) system will give Metro engineers access to near real time data so they can monitor train performance, identify faults sooner, and maintain trains more efficiently.
Metro has recently installed the state-of-the-art technology on 174 three-carriage X’Trapolis train units.
The OBD project is being completed at the Newport rail workshops and has now moved on to the Siemens fleet.
The system is used to monitor everything including vibration in critical train bogie components, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, as well as passenger body-side doors, traction, auxiliary power supply, and passenger information systems.
This helps Metro diagnose and respond to potential issues sooner, reducing the risk of passengers being delayed by train faults.
Metro’s general manager of rolling stock, Dave Carlton said that Metro was completing a world first with this technology.
“We’re proud to be leading the largest-ever retrofit of remote condition monitoring equipment on an existing train fleet, globally,” he said.
“The data we collect from this technology is being shared across Metro, which benefits our operations, infrastructure and network development teams.”
Technical upgrades have also been carried out on the oldest vehicles in the Metro fleet. 75 per cent of the Comeng fleet, which in total numbers 179 trains are being overhauled, with passenger-facing and engineering improvements.
In 2017, a three-stage, $75 million upgrade project began, funded by the Victorian government.
Metro’s CEO Raymond O’Flaherty said the project will extend the life of the fleet.
“The Comeng fleet has served the people of Melbourne for almost 40 years, they are brilliant trains and they’ve certainly got more life left in them,” he said.
“We have very stringent maintenance programs for all our trains, that’s one of the reasons they are still so reliable. It’s also essential that we utilise all the technical advances that are available, and this life extension program makes sure that our passengers have the best possible experience on board.”
The life extension project has three stages, of which the first two are complete.
Stage one included critical-safety improvements to Comeng train doors – a feature now standard on all Metro trains.
Stage two was focused on the passenger experience, including rearranging and reupholstering seating, installing LED lights, new grab poles and straps, safer gang-way bellows, and new digital signage on the front of trains to give passengers destination information.
Upgrades have also been made to the driver’s instrument panel.
Stage three is the project’s final stage and is now almost complete. It involves upgrades to the passenger information system, with digital displays inside the carriages tracking the train’s journey in real-time.
Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said that upgrades would also increase safety for passengers, with new high definition CCTV cameras been fitted with a wider field of view that can be accessed remotely, which will support Metro and Victoria Police investigations.
“We can access camera footage remotely as soon as issues are reported – helping Metro and Victoria Police respond to incidents as quickly as possible and giving Victorians peace of mind that their journeys are safe.”
There are also improvements to hearing-aid links for people with additional needs and upgraded speakers for clearer on-board announcements.
On the engineering side, the trains’ air brakes are being overhauled, while the electrical relay panel and traction systems are being upgraded to support a safer journey.
For the Siemens fleet, Metro’s middle child, Metro partnered with accessibility group Vision Australia to support new safety upgrades for the Siemens fleet
New bellows were needed between carriages, which has instituted an “outer wall” that fills in the gap between the train and the platform.
By providing an exterior that is flat along the full length of the train, Metro has reduced the risk of falls for vision-impaired passengers who may mistake the gap for a door.
Since an upgrade program commenced in February this year, more than 20 per cent of Siemens trains have been upgraded with the new bellows.
As well as being safer for passengers, the upgrades also provide sound-proofing, making the carriages quieter for a more comfortable journey.
Together with Vision Australia, Metro used a mock-up train carriage to test the design to ensure it provided all the necessary safety features.
The mock-up train is used by Vision Australia to help familiarise vision-impaired passengers and enable them to move confidently around trains, while also teaching guide dogs how to navigate the network.
Carlton said this work was important for the community.
“The work we do to make sure our trains and stations are fully accessible for all our passengers is absolutely essential. Providing a public transport service means making sure that every person can use our network without limitation,” he said.
“These new gangways give us extra confidence that not only are we continuously improving safety, but we are improving the passenger experience. It’s not just about getting to your destination, it’s about getting to your destination as easily and comfortably as possible.”
Siemens has been announced as the successful tenderer for the supply of a new Traffic Management System (TMS) for Sydney Trains.
The TMS is part of Transport for NSW’s Digital Systems program, which involves the replacement of traditional signalling with European Train Control System (ETCS) level 2 in-cab signalling. The program also involves the implementation of Automatic Train Operation (ATO) to assist drivers to provide reduced and more consistent journey times.
The $80 million TMS will continually monitor the position of all trains, to ensure trains run as scheduled and to assist with responses if incidents do occur.
Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said that the TMS would improve the Sydney Trains network.
“This is an important step in the process of upgrading our network with internationally proven technology that boosts safety, capacity, reliability and enhances the customer experience,” said Constance.
“Sydney’s heavy rail network is the backbone of our public transport system and it’s crucial we have the latest systems and technology available to serve our customers well into the future.”
The TMS will be operated from the Rail Operations Centre (ROC) in Alexandria, and integrate with other operational systems used by Sydney Trains.
The first deployment of Digital Systems will be on the T4 line from Sutherland to Cronulla and Bondi Junction to Redfern. The deployment of the system to other parts of the network is currently being planned.
Once the system is fully rolled out across the Sydney network in the 2030s, Digital Systems will allow for greater utilisation of the rail network, more reliable services, reduced journey times, and enhanced real-time information.
The Australasian railway industry continues to undergo significant change and businesses are being encouraged to maximise the opportunities from new and emerging technologies. The industry is preparing changes to digitalise management of rail assets, efficiency around the network and moving customers and freight in cities that are becoming more congested.
In 2018, Smart Rail Route Map was introduced as an industry driven initiative by the Australasian Railway Association to promote standardisation, integration and harmonisation over the next 30 years. During a panel discussion at AusRail last year, Professor Douglas Creighton from Deakin’s Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation said there has been tremendous feedback since the release of the final version.
“This is the bridge between vision and action and it’s time to connect the dots,” Creighton said.
Bonnie Ryan, senior manager of freight, logistics and industrial sectors at GS1 Australia, in the AusRail panel discussion, spoke about the industry having a drive to digitalise.
“The entire transport sector is undergoing a technology revolution,” she said. “GS1 Australia works with over 20 sectors, and they’re all at various stages of the shift to digitalisation.” She stresses the importance on the first step which is to “digitise data”.
Ryan adds not all data is equal, people can be sceptical about where it comes from and if it’s accurate so the only way to trust data is to have good governance and framework so that you can measure data quality. Ryan expresses the crucial role that the accuracy/validity of the data plays in the process of driving technology innovation.
“In the GS1 world we talk about data that is generated from the source, so if you’re providing traceability data, for example, it must come directly from the manufacturer.
“That’s the only way you can truly trust it.”
Project i-TRACE was named i-Trace for the purpose and context of traceability.
“The word ‘enable’ gets used over and over again, but i-Trace is implemented as an enabler for our systems and is a very important part of the future of the business.” said Ryan.
“Project i-TRACE is an initiative of the industry gradually coming together,” she said.
Furthermore, Stephen Baker, Head Product Innovation at Siemens said Project i-Trace has been an enabler for enhancing more than just supply chain management. Additionally, Ryan suggests that “having good governance and knowing where the data is coming from before allowing it to flow into your organisation is really important and the major focus is on visibility and traceability”.
Moreover, “there are hurdles to overcome for the industry to move forward, not just the technical skills but the way and approach to new technology,” Ryan said.
Ryan proceeds to explain that; although there are some fantastic data management tools in the front end for organisations to utilise in their day to day systems, there are still too many manual processes in the back end. As result, “we are constantly working with the industry to deliver efficiencies and deliver those benefits that will ultimately roll out better network performance and asset management practices”.
Siemens will build a rail industry innovation centre in Goole, East Yorkshire, after the company submitted plans to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council.
The centre will form part of the Rail Accelerator and Innovation Solutions Hub for Enterprise (RaisE).
The centre will focus on research, development, and innovation, and is located alongside Siemens Mobility’s rail manufacturing centre, announced in 2018, and scheduled to be completed by 2025.
The factory will build the trains for London’s Piccadilly line, which Siemens secured the contract to build in November 2018. Siemens will supply its Inspiro model to the line, beginning in 2023.
According to Sambit Banerjee, managing director, rolling stock and customer services for Siemens Mobility, the latest announcement covers facilities designed to support manufacturing and the wider industry.
“As well as accommodating support teams for our new rail manufacturing facilities, this building and other later related facilities will offer significant benefits to partners from industry and academia.”
Banerjee highlighted that the combined research and manufacturing facilities will share insights.
“This is the first phase of development of a cluster of facilities focused on innovation and research and development that will create a high-tech centre of excellence for the UK rail industry,” he said.
“The objectives of RaisE are consistent with our ambitions to establish a world-class rail village at Goole, combining manufacturing facilities with digital-led innovation to drive technological advances across the rail network and industry.”
Hull based developer Wykeland Group will construct the facility.
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