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GCU Cyber Project Aims to Safeguard Scotland’s Critical Infrastructure

In a new initiative, academics and undergraduates from Glasgow Caledonian University‘s Cyber Security and Networking Department have unveiled a new platform aimed at thwarting potential cyber-attacks on the country’s rail network.

The project, which received funding from the Smart Technologies Centre, features a unique model trainset controlled by microprocessors and is monitored by a bespoke website, allowing researchers and students to simulate cyber-attacks on vital systems such as a level crossing and train sensors.

“Our students hack various elements of this model to see what would be possible in a physical environment,” Dr Salaheddin Hosseinzadeh, who is leading the project, explained.

“They can manipulate the level crossing barrier and warning lights, for example, or manipulate sensors on the train that alert operators to obstacles in its path. The real-world effects can range from inconvenient delays to mass casualties.”

With recent global cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure, such as the Colonial Pipeline in Houston, Texas, Dr Hossenzadeh said the need for robust cybersecurity measures has never been more apparent.

He emphasised the significance of the project in addressing these threats: “The Colonial Pipeline attack left vast parts of the USA without fuel. That is just one example of many recent massive cyber-attacks on worldwide critical infrastructure.

“By using our testbed, our students can see, first-hand, the effects of such an attack on a rail network. More importantly, having seen what is possible for hackers, the students then learn how to stop these attacks and make the network more robust.

“Therefore, the initiative not only provides hands-on experience for budding cybersecurity experts but also serves as a vital research platform for developing innovative solutions to protect critical infrastructure.

“This is the only testbed of its type in Scotland. Efforts are now under way to document findings and methodologies for submission to a peer-reviewed journal. Our story highlights innovation, collaboration, and the advancement of cybersecurity education, offering potential inspiration for further development and collaboration within the sector.”

Plans are now underway to digitise the model, making it accessible to remote learners, and to collaborate with rail-industry experts to further enhance its capabilities and realism.

Source: DIGIT

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