Exploring Sensor Threats and Vulnerabilities in Intelligent Traffic Controllers

Research Team: Mohammad Abdullah Al Faruque (lead) and Mohamad Habib Fakih

UC Campus(es): UC Irvine

Problem Statement: Advanced Transportation Controllers are integral in modern traffic management. They use a sophisticated array of sensors and actuators to balance traffic and prioritize safety for vehicles and pedestrians. However, these “cyber-physical systems” can be vulnerable to malicious attacks on their sensing and edge components, specifically inductive loop detectors and traffic lights. Exploiting these vulnerabilities, malicious actors can covertly manipulate traffic signals, causing congestion or dangerous situations, like allowing pedestrian and vehicle traffic simultaneously. While significant efforts have been made to enhance traffic flow efficiency theoretically, there has been no research on physical stealth attacks at intersections.

Project Description: The project aims to enhance our understanding of cyber-physical threats to modern traffic management systems and their societal, economic, and environmental consequences. To achieve this, the study will systematically investigate the vulnerability of Advanced Transportation Controllers to targeted malicious attacks. Specifically, the project will focus on potential attacks on the two key components mentioned earlier: inductive loop detectors and traffic lights. The first attack strategy, known as active magnetic cancellation, involves spoofing inductive loop detectors by generating a counter-magnetic field. The second aims to manipulate traffic lights by introducing dormant trojan circuitry. The project will comprehensively test and analyze these attack strategies under various conditions and configurations, using detailed traffic simulations to assess their broader impacts on the traffic grid.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $84,653