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America's Traffic Light System Is Vulnerable To Hacks

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Computer scientists at the University of Michigan found the American traffic light system is easily hacked into. Americans' favorite mode of transportation is cars, but what would happen if traffic signals were hacked and caused massive vehicular chaos. Computer scientists at the University of Michigan wondered just that, and decided to test the security of traffic light systems throughout Michigan. After getting permission from authorities for the experiment, the team found it relatively easy to hack into the light systems. The research was led by scientist J. Alex Halderman, who noted, "Our attacks show that an adversary can control traffic infrastructure to cause disruption, degrade safety, or gain an unfair advantage." Three primary reasons the U.S. traffic control system is vulnerable to being hacked are an unencrypted wireless communication network, shared usernames and passwords, and the use of a vulnerable traffic controller machine. A computer-savvy hacker could easily break into the system and use it to whatever advantage they wanted- such as taking control of the lights to cause traffic jams. Traffic signals originally were machines independent of each other. While the newer computerized system improved traffic control and safety, it's able to be hacked. Researchers offered easy ways to heighten security, but added, “the real problem is not any individual vulnerability, but a lack of security consciousness in the field.”