Bus Defended Against Terrorists Who Want to Reenact the Movie Speed

We're spending money on this?

...a new GPS device enables authorities to remotely control a bus -- slowing it down to 5 mph and preventing it from restarting once it has stopped. The device has been installed on thousands of local commuter and tourist buses.

The technology is designed to prevent a terrorist from ramming a bus filled with people and explosives into buildings or tunnels.

Private bus companies have received millions of dollars from the Department of Homeland Security for the security systems. It costs $1,500 to equip each bus, with $50-per-bus monthly maintenance costs.

Gray Line double-decker tourist buses and Coach USA have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funds to install 3,000 devices. After receiving a $124,000 federal grant, DeCamp Bus Lines is installing the device on its 80 commuter buses, which travel routes from northern New Jersey to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown.

New Jersey Transit is currently in the process of equipping all of its roughly 3,000 buses with the technology. NJ Transit Chief of Police Joseph Bober said: "This enhanced technology helps us protect our bus drivers and customers. It's another proactive tool to protect our property, employees and customers."

Posted on June 10, 2008 at 12:31 PM • 82 Comments

Comments

AnonymousJune 10, 2008 12:51 PM

"Hello, OnStar - a terrorist is taking over my bus - could you turn off the ignition?"

Rick AuricchioJune 10, 2008 12:55 PM

Superb.

Next, we'll need remote controls for every van and truck. Then every vehicle capable of carrying explosives. Oh, wait...that's every vehicle. And motorcycle. And baby stroller.

Then, once we have centralized vehicle control, we can try keeping the control itself safe.

Isn't it wonderful that DHS is trying to centralize security, making it easier to attack a single point? Whether it's Real-ID or this stupid scheme, centralization is easy to attack.

The same people who lament Al-Qaeda's decentralized hard-to-attack organization immediately choose the opposite tack.

Rick AuricchioJune 10, 2008 12:57 PM

I guess terrorists will have to resort to simply blowing up a bus and not ramming it anywhere. Just like they already do in the Middle East.

It isn't like you can prevent the explosion. It just means you'll know where it will happen.

NO! Don't stop that damn bus in front of MY shop!

PatJune 10, 2008 1:05 PM

dumbest idea ever.

I wonder how long before some bored teenager figures out how to use this system remotely to stop all the buses in a given city.

I wonder how bad of a traffic jam that would create?

John R CampbellJune 10, 2008 1:25 PM

Sounds like the Doctor Who episode about "Atmos", ep named "The Sontaran Stratagem".

AnonymousJune 10, 2008 1:25 PM

One insider or good cracker can shut down the public transportation network? Cool.

WillJune 10, 2008 1:26 PM

Like this could possibly work.

Assume: Hijacked driver must signal headquarters who then halt the bus.
Failure: Kill driver quickly

Assume: Headquarters automatically halts any bus straying significant distance from route:
Failure: Drive bus into bus stop or other populated target (numerous to choose from) on or near route.

Assume: Headquarters must contact the bus to halt it.
Failure: Blocking radio signal prevents halting.

Assume: Failsafe automatically halts bus if "safe" signal isn't detected.
Failure: Busses stop any time weather, traffic, or urban conditions disrupt signal. Also ALL busses in fleet halt if system goes down resulting in economic loss and many potential accidents. System becomes infinitely more desirable target.

KevinJune 10, 2008 1:30 PM

Had this been used in "Speed," wouldn't it have instantly blown up the bus and killed everyone aboard?

Manuel DelgadoJune 10, 2008 1:34 PM

Well, now terrorists just have to hack the remote control system and they'll have hundreds of buses under their control to ram into buildings, people and other vehicles, spreading chaos all through the city.

AdamJune 10, 2008 1:36 PM

So... with a bit of research I'm a few (highly likely) lax security measures away from being able to shut down a mass transit system? Awesome.

Why waste money on stuff like this when any idiot with a decent chemistry set and some knowledge could do significant damage with something that fits in a backpack? Besides, don't we all know that anything more than five ounces of liquid explosive is all that's required to be dangerous? Why waste the time and money gathering a whole bus full of it.

L.O.U.C.June 10, 2008 1:38 PM

@Bruce

"We're spending money on this?"

Looks like they took your advice to heart:

"But I want governments to do more. I want them to use their buying power to improve my security."

- Bruce Schneier - May 6th, 2008, http://www.schneier.com/blog

What a shock that your and my money is spent in a way you didn't foresee or want, now that you've asked for and received government involvement.

Couldn't possibly have seen that coming. It's almost as if those consequences were ... unintended.

Davi OttenheimerJune 10, 2008 1:43 PM

Dumb.

They should have spent the money on making public transportation run on time and adhere to a proper course.

That would not only have achieved better security, but also self-justified the expense.

This project is a waste of money with little or even no tangible benefit. It looks like nothing more than a study on how to deploy central command and control systems into automobiles.

Davi OttenheimerJune 10, 2008 1:45 PM

@ Manuel

"they'll have hundreds of buses under their control to ram into buildings"

more like they'll be able to stop all buses and (if there are sufficient numbers) bring transportation to a standstill

jdw242bJune 10, 2008 1:45 PM

Pathetic scared little monkeys.

All this cowering is giving ME a back ache.

DaveJune 10, 2008 1:48 PM

@Kevin:

I hate to say it, but thats what I was thinking when I read it too. This doesn't solve the "Speed" issue at all!

periJune 10, 2008 1:55 PM

@Rick Auricchio "NOW EVERYONE WILL RUN IN FEAR WHENEVER A BUS STOPS!"

Absolutely hilarious!

As pointed out by other commentors the system is sure to introduce new risks but these are features, not bugs! I am looking forward to an iPhone hack stopping a bus you almost missed! Of course with everybody stopping a bus you can probably outwalk it, but at 2x capacity it will be cozy and warm way to spend your summer commutes!

Dio GratiaJune 10, 2008 1:56 PM

http://www.spacedaily.com/news/gps-03zn.html

Tanker Truck Shutdown Via Satellite

San Diego - Nov 04, -
Satellite Security Systems (S3), a global provider of asset security and logistics control, in cooperation with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and InterState Oil Company, dramatically demonstrated the first wireless remote shutdown of a fully loaded moving petrochemical tanker truck.

From S3's headquarters in San Diego -- 530 miles from the demonstration site -- satellite communications were used to disable the truck in seconds, proving S3's GlobalGuard and FleetGuard a viable solution to the challenge of controlling rogue hazardous waste vehicles that could pose a threat to homeland security.

==

Makes you wonder what the effect would be of a rogue agent stopping gasoline tanker trucks on freeways in busy cities would be, and just how many accidents we could expect and how severe the consequences? An idea with a 'homeland security' mandate. Have they switched to buses because it is less likely to result in a catastrophic incident?

SandraJune 10, 2008 1:57 PM

First, the terrorists don't want to run them into tunnels, they want to blow them up inside the tunnels.

Second, the GPS devices won't work in most major tunnels.

Third, it would cause Dennis Hopper's device to detonate.

Fourth, A life-size cutout of Keanu Reeves on every bus would be more effective.

SuterJune 10, 2008 1:59 PM

Anyone else thinking that the "terrorism" is going to be in the form of millions of people on deactivated busses unable to get to their destinations rather than ramming a bus into a building?

Oh, but I'm sure the system will be unhackable. right?

Nomen PublicusJune 10, 2008 2:02 PM

The real question is, are these people out of their fsck'ing minds?

I suspect that we shall discover that a technology review will have been helped along with a brown bag full of green notes.

Eric EslingerJune 10, 2008 2:10 PM

I simply cannot wait until the terrorists just shut down all our buses at the same time, causing traffic snarls we can't resolve. That'd be a hoot.

DaleJune 10, 2008 2:21 PM

I love the quote:

"If we just stop the bus suddenly, maybe he sets off a bomb and kills 50 people," said Gary Pard, DeCamp's vice president of operations. "It's our objective to give a terrorist time to rethink their position."

Hmmm. The bus is slowing down. Let me think... Yep, I definitely want to blow the bus up.

UW2.3June 10, 2008 2:28 PM

After reading all the comments, I see that everyone is missing the big picture. Those people are not stupid. Whoever is implementing this system is getting payed, he in turn pays to the official who helped this stupid idea gain traction. The only stupid element I see in the picture is us, the taxpayers, who's money are getting shared between the bureaucrats. You sit at work all day to pay your taxes, to provide those morons with money so that they can play golf all day long. Who exactly is an idiot?

Clive RobinsonJune 10, 2008 2:28 PM

@ Kevin, All,

"Had this been used in "Speed," wouldn't it have instantly blown up the bus and killed everyone aboard"

I think you have missed a small point, YOU ARE EXPENDABLE

That is those who control the system (brown shirts) do not consider themselves expendable but the rest of us (with the exception of politicos) are.

Why because the more civilians that end up dead from supposed terrorist activity the more it benifits the brown shirts and their political benifactors...

Yup I sound like a conspiracy nut but it appears that "fear is the key" to the government purse these days...

Ian MasonJune 10, 2008 2:39 PM

Actually, these systems were originally designed as a theft recovery mechanism, particularly for commercial vehicles carrying high value loads. Some wag at the bus company has figured out a way to get the government to pay their insurance bill by watching a couple of movies and throwing the word 'terrorist' about.

As a building attack system buses are a poor choice because they tend to have a lightweight, easily crushed, construction. [see http://thomasjpitts.co.uk/hsx/images/BusCrash1-thumb-425x278.jpg for a classic example of bridge 1: bus nil minus one floor.] A fully loaded truck full of gravel or bricks would be a better choice.

As far as the risks, if the system is insecure, of causing gridlock is concerned, this is probably the most worrying idea. Many major cities have surprisingly fragile traffic systems. A researcher at either Birmingham or Coventry University calculated that there are six junctions in London that, if simultaneously blocked, would gridlock the city for several days. Most big cities rely on the roads for their food supplies and the shops would empty in 2-3 days of gridlock. How many solid meals away from revolution is it said we are?

WallyJune 10, 2008 2:42 PM

This is all fine, but what will we do about terrorists reenacting the other Keanu Reeves movies? Specifically, I am worried about "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure."

CartmanJune 10, 2008 2:45 PM

@ Nomen Publicus
"with a brown bag full of green notes."

At least it's not as messy as a green bag full of brown notes.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_note

Petréa MitchellJune 10, 2008 2:50 PM

@Wally:

ROFL! I call dibs on fearing the remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still".

mcktJune 10, 2008 3:42 PM

@ L.O.U.C

"But I want governments to do more. I want them to use their buying power to improve my security." (emphasis mine)

This article serves to emphasize the point that the government isn't doing anything productive, not refute it.

TuesdayJune 10, 2008 4:41 PM

The Movie Plot Threat Contest should have been aimed at ridiculous products that could be sold to the U.S. government; winner gets a Homeland Security grant.

AnonymousJune 10, 2008 4:46 PM

I can think of some many ways to game this and one really good movie plot of exploiting this.

luttonJune 10, 2008 4:48 PM

You know, I think the anti-terrorism aspect is a sham, but being able to locate where your bus is (Did I miss it? Is it runnig late?) via GPS would be handy. I'd support such a tracking system if they make the data available to the public via a web site, but of course they won't do that--for 'security reasons.'

RoyJune 10, 2008 5:00 PM

Obviously, al-Qaeda has infiltrated the DHS, and this plan is a dandy. All it takes to defeat it is to spoof the dispatcher's receiver, making it think all the buses are far off their routes, in which case law enforcement will seek to immediately establish their presence by authorizing kill signals to every bus out there, which will wonderfully jam traffic throughout the city, just in time for the terrorists to launch their real attack. Jamming up traffic will hamper the movement of first responders, so that ambulances, police, and firefighters will be delayed getting on scene.

L.O.U.C.June 10, 2008 5:18 PM

@mckt

"This article serves to emphasize the point that the government isn't doing anything productive, not refute it."

Precisely. And Bruce is presumably aware of that. Yet he advocates for more.

Not a smart stance.

mooJune 10, 2008 5:42 PM

This reminds me of something I was reading the other day about bait cars. Police departments use bait cars to try and catch auto thieves---its an attractive vehicle, left unlocked somewhere and meant to be stolen. Once it is, they can track it with GPS and they can remotely shut down the engine and lock the doors. Several hidden cameras record all the actions of the thief, which is helpful in convicting them. Youtube is full of videos of bait car thefts (as well as high-speed police chases and other interesting stuff).

TimJune 10, 2008 6:07 PM

ObCynic: what difference would slowing them down to 5mph make anyway?

I bloomin' hate buses. Slow, obstructive, bad attitudes and filthy polluters with either too few people (when you're stuck behind them trying to "accelerate") or too many (when you're stuck amongst the hordes of equally stinky commuters trying to actually use one).

Joe AJune 10, 2008 6:23 PM

Why is it that the only movie plot threats are about destructive forces like out of control buses? I hope that someone develops a technology to protect us against beauty contests, like the one in "Miss Congeniality."

LuisJune 10, 2008 6:38 PM

This technology is usefull agains car-jacking. I doubt many people, if any at all, will try to steal a bus for parts or whatever full of people.

False DataJune 10, 2008 7:24 PM

Someone hacking the system: fairly small risk. Someone losing a laptop-full of shutdown keys: considerably more likely risk.

AnonymousJune 10, 2008 7:28 PM

Seems like a lot of trouble to hack a system of busses just to create a little gridlock. Around here you just need to toss a stick in the road and traffic will back up for miles.

David HarmonJune 10, 2008 7:43 PM

And of course, if some terrorist actually does want a bus, they'd go for the ones operated by certain perpetually underfunded local agencies... the ones that generally have only one adult apiece on board, but often carry lots of nice weak hostages.

Yup, I'm talking about school buses.

sooth sayerJune 10, 2008 9:01 PM

>>We're spending money on this?

Sure, but we are also not letting sikhs board buses/trains/planes with their long knives --
plus those gps things are made by local companies and are being sold at around $5K a pieces .. everyone lives

Liam SpencerJune 10, 2008 9:55 PM

"You know, I think the anti-terrorism aspect is a sham, but being able to locate where your bus is (Did I miss it? Is it runnig late?) via GPS would be handy. I'd support such a tracking system if they make the data available to the public via a web site, but of course they won't do that--for 'security reasons.'"

We have a system called "Go Time" in my city. I'm not sure how it predicts, but it's fairly accurate. One calls a telephone number unique to the stop, keys in the Route # and they give a to-the-minute estimate of the next ETA, and, when the time gets close, the following ETA. The phone numbers are posted right on the route sign at the stop.

KanlyJune 10, 2008 10:01 PM

> One insider or good cracker can shut down the public transportation network? Cool.

In Sydney how could you tell the difference?

2AprilFoolsJune 10, 2008 10:51 PM

Years ago, all this DHS stuff would qualify for April fools days jokes.
Today, it is pure corruption, that is really going to backfire.
Who would have thunk it, with the leadership we have today?
USA is turning into the Soviet Union, these are all steps to absolutionist control and robber baron era greed, coupled with pure denial of reality.

I guess it is time to ban all books. Why not? Getting hit over the head with a thrown book really hurts! The terrorists could just throw books out windows from buildings...
Book burning is coming up sometime! Makes way for all DRM content as well.

Hitler should have been stopped many many times. Vietnam should have been a good lesson. The war on x,y,z.
USA is being seriously deconstructed! Thankfully some get the message out. Kudos to Bruce and others.

Rick AuricchioJune 11, 2008 12:00 AM

@2AprilFools:

"The terrorists could just throw books out windows from buildings..."

Perhaps from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository...

barnett TJune 11, 2008 1:14 AM

It is not about terrorism, it is about profit and it is not so dumb if it is your company providing/installing the equipment. Also it is not a dumb idea if you are the politician who is dined and wined and paid in money and high paid hookers to make such decisions.

TCmanJune 11, 2008 2:17 AM

What a joke. As if a terrorist would actually survive a trip on the bus system by me.

Yeah, I dare you to try crap on the 21 or 5 line. The headline will read "Would be terrorist beaten and stabbed while trying to argue for a seat."

JPJune 11, 2008 3:54 AM

you know how bomb squads blow up suspicious packages to detonate them...well, my suggestion is we link the drivers distress button to explosives packed on the underside of the bus. this way the explosives brought on board by an attacker detonate before they can reach the target.....pwned

score 1 for us, 0 for terrorism. good brainstorm guys, lets go home.

vwmJune 11, 2008 3:55 AM

Well, if someone wants to run a vehicle into a building in order to damage the later, a concrete lorry is a much better choice than a bus.

D0RJune 11, 2008 5:24 AM

This is nothing. I've heard that Homeland Security is creating Blade Runner units to retire all these replicants. And U.S. customs regulations now prohibits import of mogwais from China.

The War On Hollywood has just begun.

AMJune 11, 2008 8:06 AM

A little research shows me that this has very little to do with terrorists and a lot to do with government pork subsidizing the installation on remote fleet management systems for bus companies.

The point of the system from Saucon TDS is to monitor the vehicle (tire pressure, oil pressure, engine condition, vehicle location with GPS, theft prevention, speed monitoring of drivers, etc). The remote shutdown angle is just a way of getting Homeland Security to pickup the bill.

As someone who has filed for other Homeland Security grants (and felt slightly sick playing up the movie plot threats to secure funding for my organization) I can say that there is a LOT of pork out there under the guise of 'the terrorists'.

All that said, I am pretty sure that the Saucon system can be blocked using one of these:
http://www.cell-phone-jammers.com/portable-tri-band-jammer.html#jammer

Most of the installations use the cellular network. The more expensive satellite hookup is only needed for long-haul and rural functionality.

HelJune 11, 2008 8:18 AM

"The terrorists could just throw books out windows from buildings..."

To be safe we should ban buildings as well. After all, you can throw all kinds of stuff from the top of buildings - some of it even more dangerous than books.

DF @ LJJune 11, 2008 8:29 AM

@L.O.U.C.

Yet he advocates for more. Not a smart stance.

People who fervently believe that government can only waste and fail, and is generally good for nothing, bother me. They tend to act in ways that ensure the fulfillment of their prophecies. Especially when they also happen to be politicians or bureaucrats themselves.

Rick AuricchioJune 11, 2008 10:42 AM

@AM: "...there is a LOT of pork out there under the guise of 'the terrorists'."

For the past year, I have often joked that I feel inadequate because I have not been trying to ride the DHS technology gravy-train.

L.O.U.C.June 11, 2008 11:27 AM

@DF @ LJ

Prophecy? Try centuries of evidence. It's time to abandon beliefs which are the economic equivalents of faith that the Earth is actually flat.

2FoolFoulFumbleForwardJune 11, 2008 3:29 PM

Divided we FALL. Amazing how bad it has become in only 8 years. Yet, all this was starting up from the past 8 years, starting up from the past 4 years.
Measured weighed divided, or something like that. Writing on the wall.
The internet is also next, copyright law and IP cops. GRR.
We are a nation in deep trouble with ourselves. It just takes 10 more years.
I wish somebody would make a website with PGP keys and signed protests from VIPs to persuade others to restore common sense.

andyinsdcaJune 11, 2008 3:42 PM

It's crap like this that makes me even more convinced that the War on Terrorism (TM) is nothing more than a way for companies to sell crap to government agencies.

AnonymousJune 11, 2008 4:03 PM

Presumably this is not a real. If it is then I have to imagine some politician owns a part of the company selling the technology or doing the installs. I'm guessing the clear line stuff at the airport is also self supporting corrupt politicians at work.

JilaraJune 11, 2008 7:43 PM

Wow, turn a bus-jacking into the O.J. Simpson chase! Instead of getting a dramatic headline-grabbing chase, everyone says "Yep, they're still chasing the damned terrorist bus..." and switches over to The Simpsons. Boredom, the ultimate war on terrorist news-grabbers! Brilliant!

2HaveFunJune 12, 2008 1:09 AM

Next DHS security measure: Free drugs, alcohol and sex to any who request it. Some terrorists will get caught in this dragnet. Politicians would vote for this, and even conduct their own recon and audit of the program!
Not to far from where this country is going.
You could sell donkey shit to the DHS and they would buy it as primo energy bars.

Keep the faith, or at least keep the TV off today.

bobJune 12, 2008 7:06 AM

Keanu should have just shot out the tires when he first caught the bus; that way it would have never reached arming speed in the first place.

Of course, then he wouldnt have gotten to shtup Sandra Bullock ... nvm.

AnonymousJune 12, 2008 10:49 AM

*This* is where my taxes are going? You've got to be joking.

Couldn't the terrorists just pick a bus that goes through the tunnel or route they want to blow up? Heck - they wouldn't even have to be in the area at all. Set up a little radio broadcaster near the target. Drop the bomb on the vehicle and sit back and watch.

IcecycleJune 12, 2008 10:58 AM

I was really hoping they were giving the buses the ability to stop bullets and bend spoons.
Wishful thinking on my part.

delphi_oteJune 13, 2008 9:52 AM

@L.O.U.C.

How is your political philosophy different than anarchy?

JJAugust 13, 2008 7:19 AM

This and all other changes is just about continuity of government, necessary because of what the government is planning to do domestically.

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