Imagine you get into your vehicle after a long day at work. Suddenly the doors lock the radio starts blasting heavy metal. You try and start the vehicle and nothing happens. Your vehicle has been hacked! Today new vehicles are so jam packed with technology that this scenario is far from fiction. Dozens of independent operating computers are all connected through an in-car communications network, aka CAN bus. There are a number of ways that computer hackers can attack your vehicle. So who is winning the battle for your vehicle, the car hackers or the car manufacturers?
Here are entry points a hacker can use to take control of your vehicle:
1. Telematics System: Most of you have probably heard of Onstar or anything similar offered by GM’s competitors. This system can notify police in the event of an accident, disable a stolen vehicle, and offer diagnostic info to drivers. So by hacking into this system a person could control a system such as the ignition of a vehicle.
2. MP3 Malware: Code that can be attached to an MP3 file that makes its way into your vehicles computer network and is capable of things such as disabling your brakes!
3. OBD-II Hacking: The OBD-II port is where the mechanic plugs in the scanning tool to diagnose a check engine light code on your vehicle. After a program is downloaded through the car’s OBD-II port it could essentially it could control everything from the windshield wipers to the brakes of the vehicle.
4. Door Locks: In most modern cars automatic locking mechanisms engage when the vehicle is put into drive and disengage if the vehicle’s air bags deploy. Theoretically this means that other systems can be breached through this system. A skilled hacker could force your car to accelerate after gaining access via the vehicle’s automatic door locking system.
5. Key Fob: For those who don’t know the key fob can be used to lock and unlock as well as start a vehicle. Hackers can extend the range of this fob up to 30 feet. This tricks the car into thinking the key is inside your vehicle when it is not, allowing someone to slip into your new ride and start it while you walk away.
So should we all start worrying about computer hackers messing with our vehicles? The answer is no, unless you are someone largely in the public eye that would have an increased chance of being targeted. Only vehicles with these technologies are even at risk, which would include models made during or after the year 2013. The truth is that hacking a car takes a lot of time, effort, and resources… not to mention car manufacturers are hard at work to prevent these types of breaches into a vehicle’s communications network. Even though highly unlikely it is eye opening that these possibilities even exist.