By Andrew Blankstein
Los Angeles Times
November 5, 2008
Two Los Angeles traffic engineers admitted today to hacking into a
computer system that controls traffic lights before a job action related
to contract negotiations with the city, prosecutors said.
Gabriel Murillo, 39, and Kartik Patel, 36, who worked with the city's
Automated Traffic Surveillance Center, each pleaded guilty to a single
felony count of illegally accessing a city computer connected to the
The illegal access occurred hours before a job action in August 2006 by
members of the Engineers and Architects Assn., which represents the
engineers who run and maintain the city's traffic center. It took four
days to get the traffic control system fully operational afterward and
underscored the vulnerability of L.A.'s the complex system.
The breach, reported on Aug. 21, 2006 between 9:10 and 9:30 p.m.,
involved sending computer commands that disconnected four signal control
boxes at critical intersections: Sky Way and World Way at LAX; Coldwater
Canyon Avenue and Riverside Drive in the San Fernando Valley; Alvarado
Street and Glendale Boulevard at Berkeley Avenue in Echo Park; and 1st
and Alameda streets downtown.
Prosecutors argued that the pair picked intersections they knew would
cause significant backups because they were close to freeways and major
destinations. They said the red lights would be extremely long on the
most congested approaches to the intersections, causing gridlock for
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