Security researchers from the University of Michigan have demonstrated that it's possible to hack into public traffic light systems. And as it turns out, doing so isn't all that difficult so long as you have the appropriate hardware and put in a little effort.
According to the researchers' findings, a hacker can execute a denial of service attack that would cripple the flow of traffic and turn said stop light into a 4-way stop. What's more, one could modify light timings to create an even larger mess or control lights to create a clear path of travel.
All of this is possible due to a trio of weaknesses in US-based traffic control systems. For starters, these systems use unencrypted wireless communication signals. Additionally, many use default usernames and passwords and finally, most use a traffic controller that has known vulnerabilities.
We also have to take into account the fact that traffic lights are no longer standalone machines. Instead, they're part of an interconnected system that makes the overall flow of traffic smoother and safer. The problem with that, however, is that a hacker can access a multitude of connected lights with a single attack versus taking over just one intersection.
The good news is that researchers have also identified some easy methods that can be implemented to fix the vulnerabilities but that isn't the main concern. The real problem, they say, is a lack of security consciousness in the field.