Like something out of a movie, security company IOActive has discovered that the traffic-control systems found in nearly every state of the Union are vulnerable to hackers. What’s even more distressing is that it doesn’t take a supercomputer to compromise these technologies.
Cheap hardware is all that’s required, plus a little know-how of course. Researchers found an exploit that allows them to target the unencrypted wireless signals that are sent between vehicle-detecting sensors and traffic lights.
This security flaw cannot be used to control an individual light but it could be taken advantage of in order to cause traffic disruptions or other vehicular mayhem. Lights can be made to stay green longer, to turn red or even flash. In states where freeway on-ramps are controlled, these lights can be manipulated as well, to the peril of many.
Obviously the implications of this kind of control are immense. Playing with finely tuned traffic lights can lead to deadly crashes and emergency vehicles could be blocked, to say nothing of how much time it would waste for motorists stuck in jams.
One other disturbing thing is that compromised systems are supposedly really hard and very costly to detect. Replacing traffic-light controllers is also prohibitively expensive.
[Source: Left Lane News]