More and more cars and being built with highly sophisticated entertainment systems as mobile and computer technology races forwards. What you may not have considered is that with this use of computer technology comes the risk of hacking. Most people think of hacking as something that happens to big corporations or possibly their home computers but not theirs cars.
Last week 1.4 Million cars made by Chrysler were recalled in the USA due to a potential “flaw” in the entertainment system software. The issue was highlighted by two security researchers who have been essentially trying to hack a Jeep for a long time. They have been working on the software that is used in a number of US models Dodge and Chrysler models to see if it was possible to hack into it and take control of the car. The results of their work showed that this was, in fact, possible and the company immediately offered a voluntary recall to patch the software. In this instance the hack was performed by professionals so no one was ever at risk, but it has high lighted a very serious potential issue for all car manufacturers in the future.
Chrysler did make a statement regarding the fact that any hacking of their software or attempts to take control of vehicles was highly illegal. They also stated that the hackers involved had prolonged access to a vehicle in order to write the code to break in, they suggest this is not a normal situation for hackers to be work in. As far as the UK is concerned no vehicles have been effected and no recall is in place.
The Jeep hackers used the fact that the entertainment system is connected tot he internet to get in, they will be giving more details on what they actually did at the Def Con hacker conference next month. In the UK similar research is going on into car systems and it has been shown DAB radios are a potential risk. The hackers can simply create a DAB radio channel and broadcast the nefarious code directly to the car.
What Might Happen?
The details of how exactly a hack to effect the car and people in it are not being made clear for obvious reasons. However, it has been clearly stated that the hackers were able to take control of the car. This implies they not only had control of the entertainment system but the car itself. Clearly the prospect of your car being taken over remotely is beyond terrifying and the likelihood of this being the case is highly unlikely. The truth of the matter is that the hackers probably only got into the entertainment system in this case. The potential problems if they had access tot he engine management system, lights, even electric steering are unthinkable.
A case like this is actually very good news for you and everyone else looking at buying a new car. It takes people like these researchers/hackers to show weaknesses in our systems. Without them it would be down to real hackers with real malicious intent, and that is not good at all. The issue is certainly not one the US government are ignoring as two senators have just introduced a bill to set standards on car cyber security. There is no doubt the UK government will be considering the same thing but the stage is now set for a potential ongoing battle between car makers and hackers and the potential dangers are enormous. As with all digital technology and software we are constantly under threat from hackers, viruses and malware. These things effect laptops, PCs, phones, tablets and more, the list now has to include cars too.