Traffic lights are easy to hack

According to an article on CNN’s web site, many traffic lights in the US are easy to hack.

Earlier this summer researchers in Michigan demonstrated how easy it was to hack into the traffic lights in an undisclosed city.

The traffic lights in question are made by Econolite, the largest manufacturer of traffic controls in the U.S.

Used to be, the controllers were all mechanical and the only way to control them was to drive to the intersection, open the control box and do what you needed to do. Now they support WiFi and anyone with a laptop – and in the case of the undisclosed city above – the default userid and password which is published in the manual – can get in and change or shut down the traffic lights.

There is a standard in the U.S. for traffic controllers, NTCIP 1202, that all manufacturers support. It is also susceptible to the same problems if cities don’t change the default settings.

The interesting thing is that with a little work cities could make the traffic lights more secure.  However, that requires money (time) and since most cities are strapped for cash, nothing is likely to change.

Until some hacker decides to shut down a city by turning off all the traffic lights or making the all red or whatever.  All of a sudden folks will get religion.

Mitch Tanenbaum

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