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From Carjacking to Carhacking

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Recently, a story broke about two men hacking the computer of another man’s car on the highway. Not only did they hackers play with the radio and air conditioning, but they also had control of the transmission, steering wheel, and brakes. As shocking and futuristic as this sounds, the same men involved in this “experiment” performed a similar one in 2013. The hacking in 2013 was done through physically hooking up a laptop to a cars computer, this time the hack took place completely wirelessly.

Who’s at risk?

The fatal flaw found lies within the Uconnect computer system put into many brands including, but not limited to, Chrysler, Dodge, FIAT, Jeep, and Ram. The system is connected through Sprint’s cellular network and it only took a cheap burner phone used as a Wi-Fi hotspot to engage the network. It appears that new automated driving features such as parallel park assist and adaptive cruise control can create vulnerabilities if these features are not separated from other, less vital, features like Wi-Fi connectivity. Studies have been done and show the most vulnerable cars include the 2014 Jeep Cherokee and Infiniti Q50 and the 2015 Cadillac Escalade. The least vulnerable cars include the 2014 Dodge Viper, Audi A8, and Honda Accord.

What actions are being taken to stop this?

The reality of hack-able cars is something the car companies have been trying to prepare for. Auto manufacturers are looking for solutions, such as wireless updates for systems in order to respond to security threats in real-time. Also, as I mentioned before, keeping a distinct separation between engine computers and entertainment computers can help protect cars. Coincidentally, Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal have recently introduced legislation designed to implement “standards of protection” for cars, against digital attacks. Senator Markey said it best when he said, “drivers shouldn’t have to choose between being connected and being protected”, and that is exactly the driving force behind his new proposed legislation.

How can I protect myself from car hacking?

While the truth is that most of the security is in the hands of auto manufacturers, there are steps you can take to be sure your vehicle is protected. It starts with studying and asking questions about your wireless system. When purchasing a new car, ask about remote shutdown and learn about the security measures the seller has put in place. Be sure to only go to reputable dealers and repair shops, and be weary of after-market add-ons. Beyond that just be sure to always protect private information such as PIN numbers and passwords.

While most people do not have the skillset to hack a car, it has now been confirmed that a full car hack is possible. It may be an unsettling reality for most, but actions are being taken to prevent future hacks from occurring. For more information or to see if you are at risk, contact your car manufacturer or dealer.

 

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  1. up arrow

    […] From Carjacking to Carhacking – Recently, a story broke about two men hacking the computer of another man’s car on the highway … The system is connected through Sprint’s cellular network and it only took a cheap burner phone used as a Wi-Fi hotspot to engage the network. […]