Traffic Lights Hacked in Michigan

Intersection in Detroit 1 photo
Photo: Google Maps/edited by autoevolution
Seeing the main character in the Watchdogs game screwing up an intersection to create chaos and loose his pursuers only using a cellphone might seem a bit unreal at first. But some scientists managed to prove this thing can be done.
The team led by J.Alex Halderman, a computer scientists at the University of Michigan, didn’t had a cellphone to do all the tricks, but using computers they managed to intercept the communication between traffic sensors and controllers that wirelessly communicate to conduct the intersection.

In their report, the researchers discovered that the controllers can be set up remotely via an FTP connection to a configuration database, which doesn’t offer too much of a protection.

“An FTP connection to the device allows access to a writable conguration database. This requires a username and password, but they are xed to default values which are published online by the manufacturer. It is not possible for a user to modify the FTP username or password,” the researchers said.

With permission from the local road agency, the team gained control of the stoplights regulating the intersection, which has been discovered to have elementary security flaws, especially because its elements communicate via an unencrypted network.

This means a hacker can in fact gain control and do things like creating a route only with green lights, just as you saw in the movies to obtain a getaway route. There was also a similar experiment presenting the same consequences at the DefCon meeting in Las Vegas earlier.
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