Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Traffic Light Hacking

PostedSeptember 7, 2014

Anchor Lead: If you think traffic is bad now, consider this…in a new paper, researchers show that it’s pretty simple to hack into traffic light systems and cause major havoc.

Randy Atkins: It started as a class project. Branden Ghena and some fellow engineering students at the University of Michigan were given permission by a local road agency to look for vulnerabilities in traffic signals.

Branden Ghena: This network is all wireless, a bunch of radios connected together.

Randy Atkins: So they get a radio from the same vendor and…

Branden Ghena: …it immediately connects and we can plug in our laptop to that radio and get onto the network no problem.

Randy Atkins: It wasn’t even encrypted. Ghena says he could command traffic light controllers throughout the city and that the situation would be similar in most of the U-S. He’s published engineering solutions and hopes those responsible will…

Branden Ghena: …start actually fixing their system, and making sure security is one of their top design concerns.