Jun 06A Sign of the Times — Hacking Signs. Electronic Road-Sign Hackers Reveal a Downside to “the Internet of Things.”
Remember the good old days when defacing road signs meant two barrels of double-ought buckshot in a deer-crossing sign on a rural dirt road? (Note: If it needs saying, we are indeed joking. Oh, you knew it all along.)
Anyway, the modern equivalent of the shotgun, but capable of being just as dangerous, is hacking into the software controlling an electronic road sign and changing the message — for instance from “DANGER BRIDGE OUT” to “HAPPY MOTORING. DON’T FORGET TO BUCKLE UP.”
The Internet of Things provides the ability to virtually control anything that connects to the Internet and offers up all kinds of possibilities for improving life from checking the security of the home while you’re on vacation to ensuring the dog isn’t eating the sofa while you’re at work. It also has downsides.
In his blog, KrebsonSeurity, Security Expert Brian Krebs, writes that authorities in several states have reported that hackers have broken into and defaced electronic highway road signs in several states. He quotes the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) as observing “changes to road signs create a public safety issue because instead of directing drivers through road hazards, they often result in drivers slowing or stopping to view the signs or take pictures.
“That same MS-ISAC notice…points out that these incidents appear to be encouraged by sloppy security on the part of those responsible for maintaining these signs.” You may read Krebs’ entire article by clicking on this link.
Andreas Baumhof, ThreatMetrix’s chief technology officer, maintains, “the Internet of Things is coming on faster than we can cope with it. Soon enough, we will be living in smart houses and all of our critical infrastructure will be managed online. This extensive interconnectivity poses a severe risk with cybercriminals having more and better opportunities to disrupt critical utilities such as our nation’s water supply and other vital infrastructure.”
As well as warning of the dangers presented by the Internet of Things, Baumhof talks about a positive solution. “Given today’s sophisticated cybercriminals [and hackers, organizations] must collaborate through a global network for a collective response to cybercrime.”