I’m in your systemz, hacking your traffic

There’s a delightful story over on KCAL9 about two strapping young fellas who are being charged with hacking the LA Traffic Center in efforts to help out a protest or something. Besides enjoying the excessive use of the word “allegedly” there is another interesting tidbit in this story, found in the third paragraph:

“The two engineers with the city’s Automated Traffic Surveillance Center were scheduled to be arraigned Monday. The pair, who were on the job at the time, allegedly accessed the automated traffic surveillance center and sent computer commands disconnecting four signal control boxes at critical intersections, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.”

OK, did you get that? I made the important bits bold so they really jump out at you. These two guys were employed as engineers at the Traffic Center, and were working there when they sent the “alleged” commands, perhaps via a series of tubes, over to the computers. Is that hacking, or did KCAL just think that “hacking” was a scary word and would be fitting for this piece. Let me ask you, if you go to Starbucks and order a large nonfat Mocha and the Barrista decides he doesn’t like your attitude and hands you a large 2% mocha did he/she “hack” your beverage, or did he just do something he/she wasn’t supposed to?

2 Replies to “I’m in your systemz, hacking your traffic”

  1. According to the LA Times, they used a privileged account (not their own) to disconnect the boxes and changed the codes so that nobody else could fix the problem, clever!

  2. I think of the term “hack” as anytime you’re able to cheat, game, or rig an established infrastructure or technology in a new or unintended way. So, yeah, these guys count.
    Then again, I also don’t ever assume that if someone hacked something they did anything illegal.

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