Traffic systems used to be as mechanical as the sun. Each light was engineered to run on a timed system, allowing for little intrusion and change in process. The modern day light has drawn on the efficiencies of technology, with many being locked into sensor based systems that monitor the flow of traffic and make signals accordingly.
As efficient as it all sounds, researchers at the University of Michigan have discovered that the innovation provides some threatening negatives. Through a sandpit test of traffic light systems in Michigan City, they managed to take control of traffic lights using a laptop computer and off-the-shelf radio.
The report from the University of Michigan has found that the wireless connections which are used in the US are incredibly weak and also un-encrypted, allowing intruders to penetrate the network and manipulate it accordingly.
The report states that: ‘We investigate a networked traffic signal system currently deployed in the United States and discover a number of security flaws that exist due to systemic failures by the designers. Our attacks show that an adversary can control traffic infrastructure to cause disruption, degrade safety, or gain an unfair advantage.’
The major attacks which the team believes could derive from this weak system are Denial of Service (DOS), traffic congestion and light control. With consistent traffic flow being at the heart of every major city, an attack like this could bring an area to a standstill.
The wireless connection which the group gained access to typically transmits data to the City of Michigan’s central command post. The technology in Michigan is like many of the systems around the world so the release of this investigation will impact beyond the boundaries of just Michigan. OCM.
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