Cyberwar with Waze

Wednesday, 26 March, 2014

When Google paid $1 billion last summer for Waze, an Israeli firm that had created a traffic and navigation app for smartphones, The Economist mused that if the users’ data were built into Google Maps, it “should give a timelier, fuller picture of conditions on the roads.” That’s because motorists can use Waze to report traffic jams, accidents, roadworks, speed traps and fuel prices. The Economist also noted that Waze was hugely popular in Israel, with “almost 100% penetration” among smartphone-owning drivers, according to Yahal Zilka of Magma Venture Partners, which had led the first round of investment in the company.

But within that “almost 100% penetration” lies a grave danger. Check this out:

“As part of their studies in computer science at the Technion in Haifa, two students constructed a program capable of disrupting traffic reports provided by the popular navigation service Waze by creating fictitious traffic reports to steer drivers off course. Using the program that they constructed, the students were able to create a traffic jam that continued for hours and forced thousands of drivers to steer clear of their regular routes.”

The report by No Camels concludes: “The cyber attack simulated by the students could have severe consequences on traffic patterns, enabling a user to discourage drivers from using a toll road leading to bankruptcy for the traffic authorities…”

Given the shortage of employees skilled in dealing with cyberattacks, those Technion students should have no problems getting well-paid jobs at home or abroad.

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