Detection and mitigation of attacks on transportation networks as a multi-stage security game

Aron Laszka, Waseem Abbas, Yevgeniy Vorobeychik, Xenofon Koutsoukos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


In recent years, state-of-the-art traffic-control devices have evolved from standalone hardware to networked smart devices. Smart traffic control enables operators to decrease traffic congestion and environmental impact by acquiring real-time traffic data and changing traffic signals from fixed to adaptive schedules. However, these capabilities have inadvertently exposed traffic control to a wide range of cyber-attacks, which adversaries can easily mount through wireless networks or even through the Internet. Indeed, recent studies have found that a large number of traffic signals that are deployed in practice suffer from exploitable vulnerabilities, which adversaries may use to take control of the devices. Thanks to the hardware-based failsafes that most devices employ, adversaries cannot cause traffic accidents directly by setting compromised signals to dangerous configurations. Nonetheless, an adversary could cause disastrous traffic congestion by changing the schedule of compromised traffic signals, thereby effectively crippling the transportation network. To provide theoretical foundations for the protection of transportation networks from these attacks, we introduce a game-theoretic model of launching, detecting, and mitigating attacks that tamper with traffic-signal schedules. We show that finding optimal strategies is a computationally challenging problem, and we propose efficient heuristic algorithms for finding near optimal strategies. We also introduce a Gaussian-process based anomaly detector, which can alert operators to ongoing attacks. Finally, we evaluate our algorithms and the proposed detector using numerical experiments based on the SUMO traffic simulator.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101576
JournalComputers and Security
StatePublished - Nov 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Computer Science
  • Law


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