Impact of a Russian cyberattack on Amtrak

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Eric in East County

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As if we didn't have enought problems, President Biden recently issued a warning of the possibility of a Russian cyberattack on critical infrastructure in the U.S. I’m assuming that this means that satellite communications, the internet and our computers could get seriously messed with or even shut down. If this does happen, how will it affect AMTRAK passenger service? If a train is already underway towards its destination and the computers go down, will it have to stop and wait until the computers come back on-line before it can proceed? Your comment, please.
 

AmtrakBlue

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As if we didn't have enought problems, President Biden recently issued a warning of the possibility of a Russian cyberattack on critical infrastructure in the U.S. I’m assuming that this means that satellite communications, the internet and our computers could get seriously messed with or even shut down. If this does happen, how will it affect AMTRAK passenger service? If a train is already underway towards its destination and the computers go down, will it have to stop and wait until the computers come back on-line before it can proceed? Your comment, please.
Would depend on which computers go down, I suppose.
In 2014, the day I was leaving for my trip to the gathering, Amtrak’s system was having issues. I could not track my incoming NEC train online. And when I boarded I found out the conductors could not lift tickets with their phones, so they just assumed everyone boarded…thankfully, so I could get my AGR points ;)
I still made it to NYP and caught the LSL.
 

jis

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Operationally, the signal systems, etc of the HOST railroads might be more of an issue.
And the integrity of the power grid, which is apparently quite vulnerable. NEC without power may be somewhat problematic to say the least, for example.
 

Devil's Advocate

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In Soviet Russia ARROW hacks you!

In all seriousness these warnings have been going out for a while, both from government agencies and corporate insurers, so hopefully they are being heeded. There was a turning point after the Sony Pictures Hack when American business finally started giving network security a bigger voice in budgets and standards.
 

zephyr17

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As if we didn't have enought problems, President Biden recently issued a warning of the possibility of a Russian cyberattack on critical infrastructure in the U.S. I’m assuming that this means that satellite communications, the internet and our computers could get seriously messed with or even shut down. If this does happen, how will it affect AMTRAK passenger service? If a train is already underway towards its destination and the computers go down, will it have to stop and wait until the computers come back on-line before it can proceed? Your comment, please.
Amtrak IT does a fine job of screwing up ARROW all by themselves. They do not need Russia to accomplish that.
 
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Oh no! Planes falling into the sky!

I think JIS is on the money with the concerns about the power (and probably natural gas, telecom and drinking water infrastructure). Oh, wait, maybe we shouldn't give them ideas.

On another message board I follow, there are tons of Russian trolls - and quite obvious unless somebody pays Americans for bad grammar or came up with a spamming program...
 
Joined
Jan 12, 2020
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I don’t think I want to be on Amtrak if there’s a cyber attack done by anyone. The diesel fuel supply would be shut off very quickly and as soon as the trucks stop hauling it I wouldn’t give but 8 to 12 hours there would be no fuel due to panic buying. Norfolk Southern yard in Linwood is back when it was operating at normal capacity could only get their bulk diesel tanks to 50% full with trucks hauling 24/7.
 

Cal

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I don’t think I want to be on Amtrak if there’s a cyber attack done by anyone. The diesel fuel supply would be shut off very quickly and as soon as the trucks stop hauling it I wouldn’t give but 8 to 12 hours there would be no fuel due to panic buying. Norfolk Southern yard in Linwood is back when it was operating at normal capacity could only get their bulk diesel tanks to 50% full with trucks hauling 24/7.
As long as a train leaves it's terminus with the normal amount of fuel, it can make it to the next refueling stop/a big city without needing more. If somehow the fuel supply was cut off and trhey couldn't refuel, they could (fairly) easily truncate the train enroute. Unless it's literally cut off from getting to the actual engine inside the locomotive, you should still be able to keep going enough to get to a big city.
 

Bob Dylan

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As long as a train leaves it's terminus with the normal amount of fuel, it can make it to the next refueling stop/a big city without needing more. If somehow the fuel supply was cut off and trhey couldn't refuel, they could (fairly) easily truncate the train enroute. Unless it's literally cut off from getting to the actual engine inside the locomotive, you should still be able to keep going enough to get to a big city.
I was on the #22/#422 Texas Eagle heading to Chicago from Austin when we had to refuel in Taylor ( First Stop North of Austin).

We had to wait on a Fuel Truck to arrive from Austin since the Amtrak "Station" is a Picnic Table on the Platform with a Carport type Roof over it. ( the Old MoPac Station is now a UP District Headquarters not Open to the Public.)

This caused a delay of over 3 Hours but we were allowed to detrain and I went to my favorite Q Joint ( Bobby Muellers) in Texas for an early Lunch.

Normally the #21 is refueled the night before upon Arrival into San Antonio before making the turn to become #22/#422 the next morning.

Somehow they "forgot" to refuel before leaving San Antonio.
 

Devil's Advocate

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The Eagle rests overnight at SAS, so the inbound crew could have filled it, or the overnight staff, or the outbound crew. I realize not everyone is trained and certified to move the train to UP's fueling tracks but you'd think a phone call to the right manager could get a fuel truck deployed at SAS or AUS pretty easily.
 
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If the internet goes down this would stop trucks from loading at tank farms. It takes trucks to get fuel to Amtrak on the road. No trucks no Amtrak.
 
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Not just proper billing involved but many other things go out to so called government agencies for record keeping. Food shipments are the same way with no paperwork involved, just the internet.
 

Seaboard92

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The most likely scenario I see is them messing with the class one signaling systems. Now granted we have worked without signals before I mean look in the 1800s, and we still have dark territory lines in the USA and Canada. In theory you could do everything with EC1s to borrow the CSX terminology. And do it that way but it would take a lot of work and more dispatchers than we have now.
 

Devil's Advocate

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It's not that trucks cannot be loaded without the internet so much as not every plant and carrier has an established process for dealing with extended outages. New customers would be tedious and difficult to setup but active orders could still be filled under existing terms and limits. Trucks traveling on informal paperwork risk fines but if the whole internet is down penalties can be challenged and reversed.
 

DonNewcomb

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If it's true that fuel can't be loaded without the internet, it is a very stupid and fragile system.
In a computer management course I once took, we discussed fall-backs to manual methods and how they worked in the '60s & '70s, vice the then-current situation ( in the '90s). I'm sure that today no one even knows what a manual fall-back is, much less how to use one.
 

Saddleshoes

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In a computer management course I once took, we discussed fall-backs to manual methods and how they worked in the '60s & '70s, vice the then-current situation ( in the '90s). I'm sure that today no one even knows what a manual fall-back is, much less how to use one.

Truth!!!
The clinic I work in had a computer failure last year. Nobody could figure out how to do a schedule with pencil and paper so management closed the clinic for 2 days. All of us old timers just laughed and took our pencil and paper skills home for a couple of paid days off.
 

caravanman

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I think it is true that we place a lot of reliance on things that we take for granted... We expect our phones, internet, fuel, electricity, to always work as expected.

Should we get over concerned about "what if..." ?

Fear mongering seems to be a worldwide pastime these days, what about the impact of an alien invasion from outer space on Amtrak? Discuss...
 

Barb Stout

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Truth!!!
The clinic I work in had a computer failure last year. Nobody could figure out how to do a schedule with pencil and paper so management closed the clinic for 2 days. All of us old timers just laughed and took our pencil and paper skills home for a couple of paid days off.
Really? We had a few computer down times that lasted several hours to 2 days (I think) in the last year I worked in a clinical lab (2012), but there was definitely a plan that we would use in those circumstances. It was a big pain, though.
 
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