How Bad Is the Threat of Hacking in Smart Cars?

With new cars relying more and more on computers and the internet, they’re also beginning to adopt the vulnerabilities associated with these technologies. As what Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller, both security experts, revealed at the Black Hat security conference held in Las Vegas, smartcars are now hackable than ever.

Although they didn’t’ actually hack through a car’s system, their research was conducted using downloaded schematics and analyzing the computer networks, which they then use to rate 20 different cars according to level of vulnerability.

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What did they use as criteria?

Attack Surface

This refers to anything that will give hackers access to a car’s security vulnerability. Wi-Fi, cellular network, Bluetooth, keyless entry systems and tire pressure monitoring systems are just some of the nifty features that could lead to a vehicle’s undoing. If hackers can find a way to hack into a PC through Wi-Fi, there’s no stopping them to do the same in a car’s Wi-Fi connection.

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Network Architecture

Security experts also looked into how much access the network features give to more critical systems, including the brake, steering wheel and the horn. According to Valasek, “It really depends on the architecture: If you hack the radio, can you send messages to the brakes or the steering? And if you can, what can you do with them?”

Cyber Physical

Cyber physical features relate to automated capabilities that can be controlled wirelessly, such as automated braking, parking sensors and lane assist. A few digital commands can turn them from a security feature to a definite threat.

Using nothing more than a laptop connected wirelessly to the car’s electronics, Valasek and Miller were able to remotely control the horn, seatbelt, brakes and accelerator. The big question now is which cars are most vulnerable to hacking? Infiniti Q50 2014 models, Cadillac Escalade 2015 models, and 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Own any of these?

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