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SwRI awarded contract to help agencies lower cyberattack risks on transportation systems

SAN ANTONIO – The Southwest Research Institute, or SwRI, was awarded a $750,000 contract from the Transportation Research Board to help state and local agencies address cyberattack risks on current transportation systems.
 
The devices that could be affected include traffic lights, Transguide signs and road weather information systems.
 
"Those type of systems do help route (emergency medical services personnel). They try and identify lane closures and accidents and things like that … travel times between different points in the city. And they really try to help organize the traffic flow through the metropolitan area," said Daniel Zajac, a senior research engineer.
 
Zajac said identifying potential access points and having a plan gives security experts a fighting a chance.
 
"Are they making sure that devices that cross the same network have different types of passwords or credentials and firewalls to try and keep people out?” Zajac said.
 
According to SwRI, the possibility of an attack is even greater for cities with fewer resources.
 
"Part of the issue is large management centers like San Antonio may be able to dedicate a person full-time to working on cybersecurity and making sure the system is up and running and updated, but smaller municipalities may not have that capability," Zajac said.
 
Zajac said many times it's a cat-and-mouse game between security experts and hackers.
 
"The real hackers out there, especially state-sponsored, have a lot of time on their hands and have a lot of resources, and so it's good policy to have somebody like us take a look at the equipment," Zajac said.