Toronto’s subway system is so compromised, it doesn’t even tell us what it does

What better illustration of a globalisation brought about by hackers than the failure of a Canadian transit system to protect itself from external threats?

Thursday’s Globe and Mail reports that Toronto’s new TTC, purchased for $770m in a huge Canadian dollar, doesn’t even report suspicious electronic traffic out of its system to the security agency that monitors the transportation infrastructure of the Greater Toronto Area. This is problematic because, as the publication notes, the authority pays for the security monitoring but it has refused to provide any level of transparency into how this is performed and what kind of information is monitored.

TTC’s new $770m bus-trains are barely 3% safe from hackers Read more

Toronto Transit Commission spokesman Ryan Bird isn’t budging: he’s refused to answer questions, saying the agency considers the security of its network and that privacy regulations won’t allow him to provide a document to The Globe disclosing what information is monitored and by whom. He also said it’s for Ontario police to decide what should be done with the data.

That would seem to contradict what a police investigator said on Thursday, but would probably not have been the first thing on Bird’s mind. Allegations of policing interference are now the talk of City Hall as the governing NDP want to know who authorized the new TTC while the parties that represent those at the management end of the railway have always felt – quite reasonably – that information is stored in secret and in a not-so-secret way.

What kind of information is monitored and by whom?

It’s one thing for a small city like Toronto to decide it doesn’t want public oversight of its decision-making processes and create security systems that make it difficult for us to get access to data. We could understand that, in principle, if something like this had happened with IBM and its software company – Big Blue – and specifically if this data was about stealing bus schedules or securing a data depot. But the TTC is a $770m organization that is not located on planet garbage.

Imagine a global transportation authority the size of the Canada Transportation Act budget for transportation in 2016 – that’s the TTC’s budget for transportation alone – whose $3bn annual revenue expenditure is turned over to hundreds of well-armed private contractors who operate their trains and buses according to corporate logic, and who are free to use those revenues to advocate for whatever policies suit their companies and clients.

Now imagine that those budgets and operations are denigrated by some of the engineers who own the power plants, the infrastructure that the TTC relies on to run its trains and buses. Maybe the private corporations are happier working with the most powerful and partisan politicians in society than perhaps they would be with a more neutral governing body, who would view them and their decision-making more humbly.

The RCMP is now acting as though this is the equivalent of Mexico City and Chiapas having an increasingly secure perimeter, and they can blame any terrorist attack on someone else.

The TTC’s federal financial agent is David Millar, who sits on the large advisory board of the Toronto Economic Development Corporation. Millar is a former chair of the board of Veterans Affairs Canada.

Current and former public servants in Canada have found themselves under scrutiny, as has City Hall. This is just another round in what is already an ongoing form of public corruption.

And even if the TTC’s internal system protects itself as a business-as-usual criminal enterprise, and just obeys whatever wishes that might be fulfilled by the ministers and commissioners of the corporation – or those politically connected organizations that operate under the TTC – that ignores what has happened here and doesn’t allow public scrutiny of public transit security.

At a time when the Trump administration is threatening to cut federal money to emergency departments in which doctors receive their fees from the taxpayers, it makes you wonder if a taxi driver in Toronto or a teacher in Sudbury or a police officer in Montreal is showing you a bill from a corporation he or she is employed by.

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