Drivers Beware The Dangers of Cars That Can Be Hacked

It seems that hackers can hack into anything these days – even a vehicle. Clearly, the very thought of a hacker hacking into a vehicle’s operating system is frightening. It’s also a situation that’s dangerous for a few obvious reasons.

Imagine losing the ability to use the brakes in your vehicle, or the ability to control the acceleration, or the ability to turn the steering wheel. These are situations a driver could potentially face in the event that a hacker gained complete remote control of the vehicle.

How a Hacker Can Take Over a Vehicle

Most vehicles these days run on fancy electronic systems with features like keyless ignition, built-in blue tooth, GPS,
and Wi-Fi, etc. In addition to the electronic systems that you’re aware of, beneath the hood and dashboard of the vehicle are countless microprocessors running each time the vehicle is started.

These microprocessors control the vehicles acceleration, brakes, horn, wipers, engine, and more. A tech-savvy hacker could potentially disable the vehicle, mess with the vehicle’s tire pressure system, or worse …disable the brakes.

In 2010, a study was conducted by Center for Automotive Embedded Systems Security researchers. During this study, researchers were able to demonstrate how to take over a vehicle through the vehicle’s OBD-II port, which is located beneath the dashboard. These same researchers also showed how to take over a vehicle through a simple MP3 player via its Wi-Fi connection.

Recently, two “white hat” hackers tapped into the vehicle of a Wired, magazine senior writer by the name of Andy Greenberg, who asked them to show him what they were capable of. From 10 miles away, the hackers proceeded to wreak havoc on Mr. Greenberg’s vehicle, eventually disabling the vehicle’s engine on a busy highway. Read more about the experiment here.

Protection from the Government

In July, Senator’s Edward Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) filed a new legislation to protect drivers from cyber-attacks. This new legislation, the Security and Privacy in Your Car (SPY Car) Act would mandate automakers to ensure that vehicles are built with technology that can prevent, stop, and deter hack attempts. Additionally, many auto makers and companies like OnStar are stepping up security on car networks on their own.

How to Protect Your Vehicle from an Attack

Here are a few things that you can do to empower yourself when it comes to the prevention of a vehicle cyber-attack:

  • Know Your Vehicle’s Systems: Go over your vehicle’s manual to find out if your vehicle has any system’s
    that could be controlled remotely. If you’re getting ready to make a new vehicle purchase, ask questions in regards to the vehicle’s wireless systems.
  • Remote Shutdown: Some finance companies install devices which control vehicle access in the event that the vehicle’s owner defaults on the loan. If you purchase a vehicle through this type of finance company, find out if the company has taken steps to protect this system from hacks.
  • OnStar Protection: If your vehicle has OnStar, protect your password at all times to avoid problems.
  • Choose Repair Shops Wisely: Always make sure to take your vehicle to a reliable repair shop to avoid a devious garage that could potentially hack your vehicle and make it appear to need repairs when, in fact, it does not actually need repairs.
  • Electronic Device Installations: When considering the installation of any new electronic device to your vehicle, research it carefully and make sure you’re protected from hacks.