Traffic Light Hacking

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

I am preparing a talk for Cyber Scotland Week [here], and setting up some practical demostrations in how insecure our IoT devices can be. So here’s a quick review of traffic light security.

Tricking lights

Eventually, our world will get back to normal, and where we will be back in cars — stuck at traffic lights. But, for such a critical part of our transport network, are traffic lights actually secure? Well, in 2020, Dutch researchers (Rik van Duijn and Wesley Neelen) outlined that it is possible to trick traffic lights remotely:

With this they have managed to hack traffic lights in 10 cities in the Netherlands, and where they tricked the system with fake bicycles at intersections. This then sets a green light for the cycle route and a red for the cars. Their focus is to show that a hacker could cause large-scale traffic jams within cities. For this, they used mobile apps for cyclists (including Schwung and CrossCycle) and which allow for the sharing of a location. These apps then support the detection of a cyclist at a junction and which tries to allow a cyclist to pass through the junction without stopping. The researchers injected fake data into the app, and which allowed them to control the traffic lights.

Traffic Light Hacking

There have been many occurrences of traffic light hacking. In 2014, security researchers, led by Alex Halderman at the University of Michigan, managed to use a laptop and an off-the-shelf radio transmitter to control traffic light signals [here]. Overall

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