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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A better way for Chris Christie to cause traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge

Just yesterday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was cleared of wrongdoing in the creation of some purposeful traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge. Now, it turns out that his aides could have created traffic jams without lane closures, and their method of doing so would likely have been much harder to detect.

Two students and two faculty advisers at the Technion managed to hack into the popular traffic navigation Waze, which was purchased by Google a few months ago, and which seems to be ubiquitous among drivers using iOS and Android phones. The four managed to create fake traffic jams on Waze as part of an academic project in the university's computer science department.
Essentially, the system automatically creates multiple new fictitious users on Waze that report fake GPS locations to “trick” the navigation system into believing there is a traffic jam.
The students were able to simulate a traffic jam that lasted for hours on end causing motorists on Waze to deviate from their planned routes.
Doctoral student Nimrod Partush initially came up with the idea for the project while stuck in a traffic jam with his adviser, Prof. Eran Yahav, last summer.
“I told Eran that if we would cause Waze, before we started driving, to report that there was a huge traffic jam on the coastal road [Route 2], the application would divert all drivers to Route 4 and we could drive to Tel Aviv on the coastal road without any traffic,” Partush said in a statement released by the Technion.
Yahav later recommended that Partush present the idea to [Computer Science students Shir] Yadid and [Meital] Ben Sinai, two students he believed would be interested in developing the idea further.
“We didn’t know what we were getting into,” said Yadid and Ben Sinai. “Success in the project was not guaranteed, and though the idea did not sound innovative, its implementation was complex and therefore it required a lot of time and effort.”
Following Yadid and Ben Sinai’s success in implementing the system, the advisers notified Waze of the “cyber-attack” and explained to the company the manner in which the students were able to hack the application.
“We believe that following our report, Waze will find a way to prevent such attacks,” said Partush.
I would bet that Yadid and Ben Sinai - and probably Partush too - end up with consulting contracts with Waze, if not employment contracts.  And Google is probably breathing a sigh of relief.

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At 3:23 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

If I were Technion, I'd be focusing on things like quantum computing for encryption. If the hacking doesn't get solved, I would say lots of operators will be separating (literally) from the internet, reducing the prospects for Big Data commerce. A big bottleneck, and deadly for we little people out here as well. We can do better.


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