The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology announced on Monday that two of their students, with the help of two advisers, created a computer system that can cause the popular navigation application Waze to report fake traffic jams.
Software engineering students Shir Yadid and Meital Ben-Sinai are members of the Psagot program – an excellence program for academic reserves. They developed the system as part of an academic project in the Computer Science department, the Technion said.
Essentially, the system automatically creates multiple new fictitious users on Waze that report fake GPS locations to “trick” the navigation system into believing there is a traffic jam.
The students were able to simulate a traffic jam that lasted for hours on end causing motorists on Waze to deviate from their planned routes.
Doctoral student Nimrod Partush initially came up with the idea for the project while stuck in a traffic jam with his adviser, Prof.
Eran Yahav, last summer.
“I told Eran that if we would cause Waze, before we started driving, to report that there was a huge traffic jam on the coastal road [Route 2], the application would divert all drivers to Route 4 and we could drive to Tel Aviv on the coastal road without any traffic,” Partush said in a statement released by the Technion.
Yahav later recommended that Partush present the idea to Yadid and Ben Sinai, two students he believed would be interested in developing the idea further.
“We didn’t know what we were getting into,” said Yadid and Ben Sinai. “Success in the project was not guaranteed, and though the idea did not sound innovative, its implementation was complex and therefore it required a lot of time and effort.”
Following Yadid and Ben Sinai’s success in implementing the system, the advisers notified Waze of the “cyber-attack” and explained to the company the manner in which the students were able to hack the application.
“We believe that following our report, Waze will find a way to prevent such attacks,” said Partush.