Of course, your car is probably not a high-priority target for most malicious hackers. But security experts tell CNET that car hacking is starting to move from the realm of the theoretical to reality, thanks to new wireless technologies and evermore dependence on computers to make cars safer, more energy efficient, and modern.
“Now there are computerized systems and they have control over critical components of cars like gas, brakes, etc.,” said Adriel Desautels, chief technology officer and president ofÂ Netragard, which does vulnerability assessments and penetration testing on all kinds of systems. “There is a premature reliance on technology.”
Illustration for a tire pressure monitoring system, with four antennas, from a report detailing how researchers were able to hack the wireless system.
(Credit: University of South Carolina, Rutgers University (PDF))
Often the innovations are designed to improve the safety of the cars. For instance, after a recall of Firestone tires that were failing in Fords in 2000, Congress passed the TREAD (Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation) Act that required that tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) be installed in new cars to alert drivers if a tire is underinflated.
Wireless tire pressure monitoring systems, which also were touted as a way to increase fuel economy, communicate via a radio frequency transmitter to a tire pressure control unit that sends commands to the central car computer over the Controller-Area Network (CAN). The CAN bus, which allows electronics to communicate with each other via the On-Board Diagnostics systems (OBD-II), is then able to trigger a warning message on the vehicle dashboard.
Researchers at the University of South Carolina and Rutgers University tested two tire pressure monitoring systems and found the security to be lacking. They were able to turn the low-tire-pressure […]