Hacking into cars
Bluetooth, Pandora, internet and other two-way communication tools may make your car that more valuable. However, research shows that they can also cause your vehicle to be more vulnerable.
As time goes by, car manufacturers are increasing the possibility of how the world outside your car can connect with the computers inside it. With your vehicle connected to the outside world, an intelligent hacker may come across a way to enter your car’s system.
The simple, embedded computer systems inside cars, which control the functioning of features such as air bag deployment, power seating and anti-lock braking systems become dangerous when they are connected to a system which includes the possibility of connecting to outside devices. In fact, the more gadgets, the more exposed.
The spotlight was intensified onto these dangers two years ago, when the cars of over 100 drivers in Austin, Texas, were suddenly disabled, or had their horns honking uncontrollably after Omar Ramos-Lopez hacked the web-based-vehicles immobilisation system. The research conducted following this scandal proved that Ramos-Lopez’s hacking was minimal when compared to the countless hacking possibilities discovered.
Following the scandal, research done at various universities, such as the University of Washington and the University of California, proved that hacking into the computer system which controls the vehicles give hackers the power to control the car’s functions; from the brakes to the radio. These hackings could be damaging, especially when cars are speeding.
Other researchers, from Rutgers University and the University of South Carolina, discovered the possibility of hijacking the wireless signal sent out by a car’s tire pressure monitoring system, which would allow the hackers to monitor the vehicle’s movements.
Among those companies protective of the electronic communications systems built into modern cars are Intel’s McAfee unit, which are studying the possibility that criminals are turning their attention to embedded computers, another easy target for them.
Through modernising the layout of cars, automakers are trying to render them more tech-friendly, in the sense that they are designing plug portable vehicles that can be connected to the internet; “computers on wheels”, in other words. These would work through a series of tiny computers, known as electronic control units, that are used to manage engines, brakes and navigation, among other things.
While this kind of technology would be helpful to corporate and government spies, it can pose a fatal threat to the driver, who, without having control of his car, may end up injured.