Hackers turn red traffic lights green using flaw in German system

Hackers have found that a decades-old technology used in many German traffic lights can be used to remotely turn them green. — dpa

HANOVER: Motorists who dream of cruising through cities with all the traffic lights turning green as they go might like to visit Hanover in Germany, where hackers have made this possible.

Using a simple laptop, a radio and an antenna, a group of computer specialists hacked into the traffic lights at various intersections from a car and outwitted the system.

A few seconds after a radio command was entered on the keyboard, the traffic lights ahead on a busy Hanover highway changed to green.

A demonstration was shown on German broadcaster NDR in early December after the hackers contacted the TV station and a computer magazine to warn of the potential glitch.

The outdated technology, which is in used in at least 80 German cities, is designed to enable local buses and police, ambulance and fire brigade emergency vehicles to make swift progress.

The systems are not installed at all traffic lights, but mostly found along bus routes and at busy traffic junctions. The "remote control system" uses unencrypted analogue radio frequencies - a decades-old technology.

According to the IT experts, it is technically impossible to cause accidents by setting all the traffic lights at a junction to green at the same time.

Others warned, however, that traffic lights could be manipulated to cause gridlocks in cities. Officials in Western countries supporting Ukraine's defence against Russia's invasion have become wary of potential infrastructure weaknesses that could be exploited by foreign agents.

Officials in Hanover did not comment officially on the hacking activities, but said they were currently developing a more secure digital control system for traffic lights. – dpa

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