Car Hacking: In the Future, Will Your Car Catch a Virus?

It’s clear that one of the most important selling points and design features of future cars will be the driver interface. In a world of increasingly connected social media outlets and smartphone apps, the car is becoming an extension of all that. Google has announced a collaboration with GM, Ford has its collaboration with Microsoft… I wonder who Apple will partner with? Come on, don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it.

But all this nifty integration and connectedness may come with a dangerous price: opening your vehicle up to the whim of a hacker and his viruses.

Although we still don’t fully know what went wrong with the ‘unintended acceleration’ fiasco, one thing it did elucidate was the fact that bad things can happen if electronics and software go wiggy. Now, some researchers from the University of Washington and the University of California San Diego have begun to try and put their finger on these potential future threats… and they’ve come up with some shocking results.

In a paper from the Center for Automotive Embedded Systems Security (betcha didn’t know that existed), the researchers say that they were able to gain surprising access to a car’s computer system and force it to disengage its brakes while moving or even slam them on at will. They were also able to control all the exterior and interior lighting. Although the researchers only tested two cars from different automakers, the systems they used to obtain access are available on every modern car and they say they would fully expect the same level of vulnerability on other cars

It should be noted that the researchers conducted their experiments by physically connecting up with the car, and they say that current car drivers shouldn’t be worried as the hacking now requires a physical connection. But they warn that in the future, given the fact that internet connected cars with access to a gigantic library of applications are almost here, we can expect clever hackers to be able to gain access to a car’s electronics and software from anywhere in the world.

Now that just gives me the skeevies thinking about it. Although I can see the unlimited potential in all of these new features, I wouldn’t want to give up my car’s complete autonomy. Although, with the example of ‘unintended acceleration,’ maybe I already have? Can you see it now… not only will you have to pay a monthly subscription for anti-virus software for your computer, you’ll have to pay the bastards twice for your car as well.

Source: Technology Review

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.