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Hackers Can Now Create Fake Traffic Jams

Illustration for article titled Hackers Can Now Create Fake Traffic Jams

A couple of Israeli students figured out a way to create fake traffic jams using the popular, Google-owned Waze GPS app. And while it sounds silly at first, these kinds of infrastructure hacks could have serious consequences as we depend more and more on data to help us get around town.

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The Waze hack is pretty simple. Shir Yadid and Meital Ben-Sinai from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology registered thousands of phony Waze users by impersonating smart phones. Then they simply sent all the fake users to the same GPS location, creating a massive traffic jam in the eyes of other Waze users. While they pulled off the hack just to show how it could be done, a trick like this could ruin the days for thousands of real drivers.

The idea gets really scary if you imagine how fake data could derail our infrastructure system. What if, for instance, hackers decided to target the rail system instead of the roads? It's one of President Obama's worst nightmares that a cyber attack could derail a train full of hazardous chemicals. So while a fake traffic jam could be inconvenient, the thought of such a hack brings to mind much darker consequences. [PopSci]

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DISCUSSION

Oh, what paranoid nonsense. This is a security hole in a free app, not a deep and terrifying infrastructure problem.

Waze is not "infrastructure" by any stretch of the imagination. It is an app that shares, by default, everything that the crowd tells it, whether that's true or not. The quality of the data is only as good as the quality of the crowd.

Google adjusts its algorithm to filter spam, and life goes on. I'm surprised this didn't happen sooner.

And in case my point isn't clear... A fake traffic jam reported on Waze doesn't inconvenience anyone. A real traffic jam inconveniences people.

I'm not saying one won't definitely cause the other, but you're conflating the two with alarming simplicity. If Waze's data is no longer trustworthy, people will simply stop relying on it - if they were even doing so to begin with.