Thales Cyber Security is key element in the Signalling Systems of Railway & Metro Rail systems: EVP-Cyber Security of Thales

“We have no plans to sell standalone Cyber Security solutions in India, and our Cyber Security is key element of our Signalling Systems commissioned on Indian Railways & various Metro Rail systems” said Marc Darmon, Executive Vice-President of Secure Communications and Information Systems at Thales.
Marc Darmon, EVP-Secure Communications & Information Systems

KOLKATA: A cyber attack may happen within 20 days of detection of a breach in security or in hardware and it often takes nearly 200 days to upgrade the systems in the traditional set-up.

This could have been done on the first day itself. And, this is where French company Thales with its specialised expertise in cyber security can come in. Identify the loopholes and take corrective action, says Marc Darmon, Executive Vice-President of Secure Communications and Information Systems at Thales.

Thales that caters to Defence, Civil and Railway sectors is looking to grow its presence in India.

Apart from these sectors, the four other verticals the company operates include Space, Aeronautics, Ground Transportation (Railways, Roads and Highways, Seaways), Security (including Cyber Security).

In an interview, Darmon talks about the company’s India strategy with regard to cyber security and privacy issues. Edited excerpts:

Q: What’s your strategy on India in general and Indian Railways and Metro Rail sectors in particular, when it comes to Digital Security?

Darmon: We have a very strong base. And with the 150-odd people from Guavus (a real-time big data processing company that Thales acquired), we have a data analytics platform. And, as you know data analytics forms the basis of cyber security as it allows detection of abnormal behaviour or threats. As a business, we limit our cyber security offerings to wares we sell in India. By that I mean when we sell signalling systems to an Indian mainline Railway segment or Metro Rail sector, we use cyber security in it a key element of our offer. But, so far, we do not address Indian companies directly to sell cyber security solutions to them. We sell only through Thales’ systems.

Q: Can you briefly explain about your Signalling Solutions for the Railways and Urban Mobility sectors in India business?

Darmon:  Our trusted, proven urban signalling solutions will boost the performance of your existing network without disrupting operations or help you start your new network right.

Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) – Thales literally invented CBTC in the 1980s and today our fully automated, integrated and upgradeable SeltracTM CBTC continues to lead the industry. Freed from the limitations of conventional fixed-block designs, you can move more people, more quickly, without compromising safety. SelTracTM also has a green configuration that consumes 15% less energy. Built to be flexible, SelTracTM addresses all of your requirements and with optimised maintenance and life cycle costs.

Street-level signalling provides tailored solutions for your tram and light rail networks, including signalling for lines and depots, priority management at road crossings, automatic vehicle localisation and tram regulation.

Route Control Systems – Thales LockTrac electronic interlocking systems ensure smooth and safe movements by managing point machines, signals, crossings and other network elements.

Traffic Management Systems – Put more trains on existing tracks with the help of our NetTrac ARAMIS (Advanced Railway Automation Management & Information System), which automatically detects conflicts and proposes operational solutions so that any incidents can be quickly managed.

Rail Field Equipment – Our FieldTrac family of trackside equipment includes axle counters, point machines, LED signals, automatic warning devices and more.

Q: Why have you stayed away from direct selling of cyber security solutions to Indian companies?

Darmon: India is huge market, but there are a lot of Indian companies already present in this segment.

Our cyber security business is two-fold. One is to corporations and that is only €1.5 billion; and there is also key technology that is a part of what Thales’ is doing, a part of its air traffic management systems and so on. In the case of India, we didn’t feel the need to address Indian corporations directly. It could be a partnership with Indian companies. However, if you see (verticals like) air traffic management, defence and so on, then our cyber security solutions are already present.

Q: So do you intend to sell standalone cyber security solutions any time soon?

Darmon: Not in the very short term.

Q: Today’s discussion on cyber security also covers third party applications that gain access to user data or breach of privacy issues. What is your take and can Thales work in preventing that?

Darmon: Where data is compromised, we have a team of people who are like ghostbusters. They probe the causes of the leak and try and take preventive action. They also determine how safe the systems are, part by part. But, this is in case of a general attack. When there is a compromise or a set of leakages, our approach is different. There is nothing to correct. Everything is working well. So what we do is redefine the security policy. In these cases we try and determine what is the data that needs to be protected, who has access to what and what type of protections are needed. This then becomes a business of expertise and we can look at selling solutions related to encryption, diodes, software and hardware.