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2 Investigators: Stolen Keys Can Be Used To Access CTA Trains

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The 2 Investigators uncovered an alarming security breach involving the CTA as trains and other access points can be breached with keys that have been stolen. Dave Savini has this original report detailing what some are calling a major gap in security.

Like in an airplane cockpit, CTA train operators work behind a locked safety door. The 2-Investigators obtained internal CTA warnings exposing a security breach: keys to train doors have been stolen. One of those keys can easily give a person access to the controls that operate the train.

Bob Kelly heads the union for CTA employees. He says many workers are given the same key which fits universally in hundreds of train doors; a bad idea he says.

“If someone knew what they were doing, a lot of damage could be done,” said Kelly. “CTA used to always pride themselves on safety. Safety is not a concern no [sic] more.”

Kelly says the same keys also open electrical compartments and doors to other secure areas. He worries that in the wrong hands, a train can be derailed or worse.

“How hard would it be to take over a train and, God forbid, something happened at the right spot,” said Kelly.

Tom Mockaitis, a terrorism expert at DePaul University, has the same concerns, “Sabotage, damage, potential loss of life. You figure a train at rush hour is a very, very high-value target.”

We showed him CTA internal bulletins which includes pictures of suspects in key thefts. One bulletin says there has been a recent pattern of keys being taken from CTA kiosks or from CTA agents by force. Master train keys, and a smaller key that opens gates bypassing turnstiles, have been stolen and some even duplicated.

“The first thing you got to do is say, ‘We know these keys are compromised, we got to start changing locks,’” said Mockaitis.

He was disturbed at something else we found: employees responsible for protecting keys being distracted. One kiosk worker was on her smart phone. Another worker was on his too. He even sets his keys on a store ledge during a coffee break.

“We’ve got to train employees to be more conscientious of the security of their equipment, particularly their keys,” said Mockaitis. “Secondly, we got to look at this and say, ‘Is it a good idea to have master keys that open everything?’”

“There’s always the inside joke the public has more keys than we do,” said Kelly.

Kelly says over the years, an unknown number of keys have gone missing. He says it is a big number.

A CTA spokesman says there has been a small handful of missing key incidents. The spokesman says they are looking for ways to address this issue and says there are multiple safeguards to prevent any train being taken over.

The spokesman also says the motor cab is just another area on the train and not a security point, even though it is where the controls are for the train and is locked when the operators are inside.

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