Car Tech 101: Hacking a car: Is it really that easy?
Cooley On Cars
As recently as five years ago, reports of cars being hacked were out there, but they were viewed as either apocryphal.
Or just unlikely to scale.
Then this drumbeat of headlines began.
March 2011, UC San Diego and University of Washington, teams there able to hack into a mainstream production car via it's cellular data connection, getting access to drive systems.
May 2013 NHTSA establishes its first team to monitor car hacks.
Hacks, and develop standards against them that are still pending.
August 2013, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek get into the backbone of a 2010 Prius and 2010 Ford Escape.
In a demonstration that they do through the OBD-II port, which is in every car made since 96.
They get access to steering, braking, displays and more.
Summer 2014, a teenager spends 15 bucks at Radio Shack and is reportedly able to remotely unlock and start a car a the Battelle CyberAuto.
CyberAuto Challenge, apparently not much of a challenge for him.
Prowl LinkedIn, and you'll find job listings like this one from Ford that reads almost like one from a defense contractor.
And February of 2015 in Sausalito, California, a thief appears to walk by a locked car holding some kind of device that isn't the key.
But it still unlocks it, and he steals a $15,000 racing bike from the back.
A typical new car today has maybe a hundred microprocessors.
Is in it, networked together by a LAN, teaming with a lot of shared information that passes by most of those chips.
All of this given shape by up to 100 million lines of software code.
These are cyber physical systems.
So effectively, when you're in your car, you're in a computer with wheels.
But, what is the robustness and the resiliency of that entity?
Probably far less than the laptop that you have sitting [LAUGH] on the table at hom.
Mary Aiken is a cyber psychologist.
And real-life inspiration for the new show, CSI Cyber that CBS just launched on Wednesday night.
I'm a cyber cop.
Her concerns underline four things going on in the connected car; the processors and networks increasingly control important stuff, the car systems are increasingly interconnected, get into one part of the car's electronics, and you may be on your way to be getting into the rest.
Third these systems are increasingly exposed to wireless interfaces.
From a wireless key that can remote start your car to bluetooth and wi-fi for streaming in hot spots and built in cellular radios that power the car's telematics or concierge service.
And finally, the internet, as with everything else connected via it it's a non-proprietary shared infrastructure.
Intoxicatingly powerful, efficient, and scalable, but shared is shared.
That means good guys and bad.
And unlike our personal computers where just about no two are alike with different software settings.
Security software, configurations and so many parameters.
Vehicles tend to be pretty homogenous.
Add to that waves of cars heading to showrooms this year with Apple Car Player or Android Auto installed, potentially setting the tables for yet another layer of common app efficiency.
Hack one, the fear goes, and hack them all.
And with cars on US roads currently at a historic high of 11.4 years old average.
Whatever vulnerabilities are going out there will likely remain there for a long time.
More car tech demystified right now at CNETOnCars.com.
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