Highway signs and hackers: The lesson for officials after incident on I-95 in Delaware County

If you were on I-95 in Delaware County last Sunday at this time, you may have gotten an eyeful.

Ian Bush
May 19, 2018 - 9:30 pm
Computer Hacker
Categories: 

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- If you were on I-95 in Delaware County last Sunday at this time, you may have gotten an eyeful -- courtesy an electronic sign that was vandalized to display a vulgar message. Similar incidents have gotten the attention of the Department of Homeland Security.

The Delco diss is unlikely to rise to the level of the feds, since officials say whoever changed the roadside sign did so by physically breaking into its keyboard.

But, like the more concerning remote attacks, the interface either wasn't password-protected or it hadn't been changed from the default (which aren't hard to find online).

"What some of them fear is that hackers could get a hold of these signs and use them to create accidents, or -- even worse, beyond signs -- play with traffic signals or road sensors and create havoc on the roads," said Jenni Bergal, who reports on infrastructure security for the Pew Charitable Trusts' initiative Stateline. 

Bergal points to a teenager in Poland who hacked a tram system, which derailed cars and left a dozen people hurt. The message to transportation departments when it comes to cybersecurity? Prioritize or perish:

"As the world has become more connected, they're increasingly concerned that they are or could be targets for cyber criminals," Bergal said.