Hacked Gadgets Forum

January 24, 2008

Simple IR Hack Derails Polish Trains

at 5:05 am. Filed under Electronic Hacks

 A 14 year old boy hacked the train system in Poland causing four trains to derail and numerous people to get injured. He apparently did this by converting a IR remote control to work with the train system. He had stolen the information needed to build the device along with some of the parts needed from the train storage yard. Of course this is horrible and the boy is completely at fault, but I think much blame lies with the developers of the system. Could you imagine if a modified remote control could change traffic lights to green in both directions. This should not have been possible to hack so easily. The train above is probably the style that was derailed.


"He had converted the television control into a device capable of controlling all the junctions on the line and wrote in the pages of a school exercise book where the best junctions were to move trams around and what signals to change.

He treated it like any other schoolboy might a giant train set, but it was lucky nobody was killed. Four trams were derailed, and others had to make emergency stops that left passengers hurt. He clearly did not think about the consequences of his actions."

 Thanks Chris



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16 Responses to “Simple IR Hack Derails Polish Trains”

  1. Project_Nightmare Says:

    This sounds completely like a hoax!

  2. Morten Says:

    Clearly the boy isn’t the only one to blame here, but there is nothing that justifies what the boy did. Still, IR control on tram rail system. It’s like putting a 15 century lock on a modern bank vault :S

  3. Wayne D. Says:

    Heh, you would be surprised how lax security is around trains even in the US. BNSF (Burlington Northern/Santa Fe)trains have a really simple wireless system that is not secured very well. They mostly count on no one understand SCADA systems. Also, some railroads transmit unique DTMF tones to switches over their radios. Not to hard to hack when you use their frequency and get a list of tones from a manual.

  4. Landrash Says:

    The years to come will bee interesting when more and more get there hands on more and more advanced technology and lack the knowledge to use it. Its a bit sad that the boy went this far without being noticed by teachers since he seem to have a brilliant mind.

  5. Dziki Bill Says:

    This is not a hoax.
    Theese are links to sites of two most important polish daily newspapers


    It is written, that this boy used to get to the tram depo to collect data and hardware for this devastating hack

  6. Dziki Bill Says:

    sorry wrong link 🙁
    this one is correct

  7. JMiller Says:

    How did he get caught?

  8. Jordan Horwich Says:

    It IS possible to change the stoplights to green. Ambulances, Firetrucks, and police use a device to make the light green instantly. If you use two at the same time, than I think that you could cause both lights to change to green. This device is simply an oscillating frequency of an IR led.

  9. Dziki Bill Says:


    Collision of two tramways in Lodz in which 12 people were injured has been probably caused by 14 yo boy.
    The teenager confessed that he caused 3 derailments. He has been arrested (…)

    On tuesday two passing by trams of line 11 at Zeromskiego and Kopernka crossing one of the tram cars derailed and hit front of the incomming vehicle.
    Some of the injured are still in hospitals.
    Their lives are not in danger.
    The most injured person is men sitting behind the tram driver – he has broken leg.
    He had to be cut out from crashed tram by firemen (…)

    (…)After 12am police declared, that 14 yo Lodz citizen is the one who caused this accident. – During search of his house police found
    a device, which could be an IR emitter used to control tram switches – sais Miroslaw Micor, spokesman of Lodz Police Department

    Teenager has been interrogated in presence of psychologist.
    Boy admitted that he changed switch position in three cases – in each a train car has been derailed.
    Police suspects, that he could cause more accidents.

    Teenager had also had keys to control boxes and a key to the tram (he could drive it!).
    He admitted that he could easily get to tram depot and collect any hardware and information needed i.e. to build the device which caused the accident.

    Passangers are terrified how easily one can make trams crash. – There are locks disabling changing position of a switch when tram passes it. Unfortunatelly in Lodz there are very few of them. They would be installed on Lodz Regional Tram route. One of them is also on Kilinskiego and Narutowicza crossing – says Malek.

    sorry for my bad english

  10. eh Says:

    In modern city in Poland like Wroclaw or Warsaw ther is no way to do that. Only in Lodz they are using this system (IR). But in ohter there are a radio or magnethic system which use a coded signal. Ir was so stupid that even in Poland was it a true shock. by the way tram on the picture is very old, and very rare. here you have a link with our trams. Don’t think that Poland is in middleages:


  11. Bob Funk Says:

    Jordan Horwich said: It IS possible to change the stoplights to green. Ambulances, Firetrucks, and police use a device to make the light green instantly. If you use two at the same time, than I think that you could cause both lights to change to green. This device is simply an oscillating frequency of an IR led.

    As far as I recall the signa controller worked only in one direction. That is it would change the light along the main route. But my information is rather old on this system
    Also, newer, non-mechanical, lights fail safe to blinking 4 way red or off.

  12. Dave Says:

    As a reply to Jordan Horwich: Not all countries have that system installed. Not even some of the modern Western-European countries..

  13. Macka Says:

    I dont think Australia (well at least not South Australia) uses that, I believe the dispatchers control the lights when necessary.

    All an emergency vehicle has to do is radio in the intersection and the direction to the dispatcher, then a human dispatcher switches the lights over.

    I could be wrong though.

  14. zaytzev Says:

    Lol, I haven’t been on this website for a few weeks and you wrote about my city.

    In Lodz the most common is that type of tram:
    Thoso old ones from the article you can encounter in Warsaw or Wroclaw (and the photo I believe was taken in Krakow).

  15. Alan Parekh Says:

    Hi zaytzev! Small world…

    Any more news about this or has the story dried up over there?

  16. zaytzev Says:

    Not the world is small only this blog is quite popular in Poland.

    About the derailed trams:
    As media in Poland describe it is rather sad story. Boy has emotional problems due to rather harsh childhood.

    I found little information about technical details. From a few years there is protection installed that blocks switch when tram is passing it but until now it has been placed only at several tram junctions in Lodz.
    There has been no statment until now what city is planning to do about the situation. At the moment there is another large scale project considering tram network executed (imagine traffic jams) so the city has no money to modify entire network at the moment.

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