Some journalists, especially of the younger generation, find the situation created by the incompetence of the Budapest Transit Authority (BKK) in handling the cyber attack on its website amusing. Every time the CEO of BKK or the mayor of Budapest opens his mouth it is patently obvious that he doesn’t know what he is talking about. And then there are the repeated breakdowns of the Russian-made metro cars, which are getting harder and harder to explain away. The reasons they offer are greeted with hilarity and incredulity. In turn, Mayor István Tarlós, who has had a fairly rocky relationship with the press, devotes his considerable energies to attacking the “tee-heeing”(heherésző) scribblers.
Since the leaders of the city are reluctant to admit that the problems are the result of either their own incompetence or the shoddy work of the Russian firm that produced the metro cars, they blame the media for exaggerating the rare and in any case fairly inconsequential mishaps. And if that tactic doesn’t work, they are quite ready to blame someone else for their own shortcomings. This is exactly what’s going on with the cyber attack against BKK and the obstinate metro car doors that refuse to close. In both cases, Tarlós talked about sabotage that had been carefully planned way ahead of time.
At least for the time being, however, the journalists don’t seem to be frightened. They compare the present situation to the 1950s when the communist leadership could easily find a couple of saboteurs who were responsible for the failure of a new factory to open by the deadline. Journalists recall Comrade Virág, the legendary character of the famous Hungarian film “The Witness,” who would be very impressed (if he lived today) by the government’s ability to find “three anti-people sabotages in one week.”
As for the explanation of the latest metro car incident, jokes abound in the opposition media about the “wooden block” that someone placed in the track of the sliding door. No one really believes the story. So, Tarlós made sure at his July 27 press conference that the journalists realize “this is not a joke,” because for such an act of sabotage the prescribed jail term is five years. The media’s reaction is that of deep distrust: if the powers that be work hard enough, they will find culprits. Everybody has heard stories about those dreadful days more than 60 years ago, which seem to be returning.
For the time being at least Tarlós stands behind Kálmán Dabóczi, CEO of BKK. After all, Dabóczi was his choice in 2014 when Tarlós fired the young Dávid Vitézy, whom he accused of hysterical and anti-social behavior. At the time I didn’t follow the “soap opera,” as Tarlós called it, of the firing of Vitézy but, if I recall properly, Vitézy had ideas that Tarlós found far too revolutionary, among them the introduction of the latest IT technology in running the public transportation system of Budapest.
From what Dabóczi had to say about the cyber attack on BKK’s website, it is clear that he doesn’t know the first thing about computer science and the internet. I don’t know how seriously one should take what Tarlós said at his press conference about the details of the massive attack that occurred after the discovery of the initial software problems. One begins to have doubts about the “experts” BKK apparently consulted who claim that a cyber attack of that magnitude is extremely costly. After all, says Tarlós, “40 million people entered BKK’s website within an hour, which costs 300 million forints and a lot of human resources.” One doesn’t need to be a computer expert to know that such attacks are powered by botnets. They are quite inexpensive (apparently starting at about $7 an hour) and need no manpower. Tarlós bragged about his knowledge by explaining that the hackers used 87 IP addresses and that what really did the system in were attacks from “foreign servers.” Well, of course. But at least Tarlós concluded that such a costly operation could not have been launched by the 18-year-old high school student. One ought to add that Tarlós likes to portray himself as a man of superior knowledge about everything technological because of his degree in engineering.
Although demands from opposition forces are numerous for Kálmán Dabóczi’s dismissal, Tarlós stands behind the man, even though the CEO of BKK, who was known in the past as a champion of “morality,” lied several times in the course of the discovery of the software error. Since BKK and its CEO are innocent, the culprit must be the German T-Systems and its Hungarian affiliate, whose leadership “slyly lie low,” according to Tarlós. Without wanting to defend T-Systems, which obviously delivered shoddy work, one must also lay some blame on BKK, which turned a blind eye to warnings about the system’s security problems.
As for the problems of the metro car doors, what can one say? Tarlós’s explanation that the wooden block was most likely put in the door’s track “between stations” makes no sense to me. After all, between stations the doors are closed. Of course, the skeptical journalists and the equally skeptical public are certain that there was no wooden block, although Tarlós had one on display.
During this same press conference Tarlós put his foot in his mouth when he was asked about the absence of handicapped accessibility at some of the stations. He claimed that there is only one disabled person in every 1,000 passengers, and therefore the additional cost is not warranted. Of course, his explanation is ridiculous because if the metro is not handicapped accessible, very few handicapped people will use it. The second problem is that his numbers are all wrong. The National Federation of the Association of Disabled Persons (MEOSZ) reacted by pointing out that making the metro handicapped accessible is not a choice. It is the regulatory duty of the city. In addition, Tarlós’s statistics are faulty: one in every ten people is handicapped according to the World Health Organization. Moreover, there are parents with baby carriages and older people who have difficulties with escalators and stairs. In the opinion of MEOSZ’s president, Tarlós and the City Council never seriously considered making the M3 line handicapped accessible, and therefore he is planning to make an illegal move. It’s time to find solutions instead of creating excuses.
So, that’s where we stand. Meanwhile the cyber crime experts in the national security offices attached to the ministry of interior are looking for the man with 300 million forints who attacked BKK in order to create chaos during the World Aquatic Championships.