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News Picks : Researchers reveal vulnerability in traffic signal networks

By: Physics Today
20 August 2014

MIT Technology Review: Wirelessly networked traffic signals include sensors for detecting approaching vehicles, controllers that manage the lights, radios to communicate between intersections, and malfunction management units to reset the system if an error occurs. With official permission, a group of researchers from the University of Michigan led by J. Alex Halderman hacked into a local traffic-light network and discovered three major vulnerabilities, which they report result from a “systemic lack of security consciousness” in the networks’ design. Anyone with a computer that can transmit on the same wireless frequency as the network’s radios could gain complete control of the network, for example. Similar vulnerabilities have been known about for years in other devices as well, such as voting machines. Until hardware producers take security practices more seriously, the potential for damage from malicious or capricious access will continue to increase.


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