Can Waze’s Crowdsourced Traffic Data be Faked?

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Those living on the Westside of Los Angeles live in an area that is routinely congested with traffic.  Many motorists trying to navigate around the clogged 405 freeway have used traffic apps such as Waze to find backstreets which has resulted in increased traffic in those adjoining neighborhoods.  Was uses crowdsourcing to gather information about traffic congestion and road conditions in order to develop the quickest routes for its users.  Gossip site TMZ is reporting that upset Westside neighbors are banding together to report fake traffic congestion in their neighborhoods in an effort to thwart those commuters attempting to use their local streets as a shortcut around the freeway.  The idea is that by reporting phantom traffic accidents and other traffic problems, the Waze app will reroute traffic away from those areas and lessen the amount of cars in those neighborhoods.

Waze has responded to news about the effort, claiming that the efforts of angry Westside neighbors won’t be successful.  According to local news station CBS Los Angles,  Waze spokesperson Julia Mossler said in a statement: “Fake, coordinated traffic reports can’t come to fruition because they’ll be negated by the next 50 people that drive down the street passively using Waze.”

Tricking Waze is something that has been achieved before.  Two Israeli students were able to simulate a fake traffic jam that fooled the app for several hours as part of a school project earlier this year.  Software engineering students Shir Yadid and Meital Ben-Sinai at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology created an application that spoofed a smartphone and created thousands of fake Waze accounts. Those fake users then reported false GPS coordinates, claiming to be stuck in traffic.  The simulated traffic jam affected real Waze users for hours.   After successfully affecting Waze, the two students and their advisor reported what they had done to Waze so that the company could better strengthen its app against future similar attacks.

Traffic on the 405 in Los Angeles rarely flows.
Those using Waze rely on reports from fellow drivers to navigate around heavy traffic on the 405 through the Westside.

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