Can a hacker take control of your car and steer it? We’re used to worry about hackers stealing our private information to commit identity theft or phishing their way into our Facebook accounts, but digital carjacking sounds like the stuff of science fiction. Unfortunately, this frightening possibility may soon become a reality.
Two researchers figured out to hack into a car’s navigation systems and they’re planning on demonstrating their findings at the upcoming Def Con security convention in Las Vegas.
Let’s examine their claims and find out more about how car hacking works so you can know whether or not your vehicle is at risk.
Researchers Allege Toyota Prius, Ford Escape Are Easily Hacked
Two security researchers, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, wanted to learn more about the computer systems on board the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape.
They wanted to know more about exactly what those on-board computers controlled and how they were connected to the cars. Their results were shocking.
As it turns out, the computer systems on cars like the Prius and the Escape control critical functions like braking and steering. What’s more is that they’re all connected by way of a network that apparently doesn’t require much authentication or proof of identity.
According to Miller and Valasek, at some point in the near future, it could be relatively easy for a hacker to connect to a car’s Bluetooth and then “daisy-chain” his or her way into the control system.
Using the parking assist feature, for example, the two researchers were able to take control of the car’s steering wheel and control it independently.
GPS Hacking Makes Planes and Boats Vulnerable, Too
But Miller and Valasek aren’t the only ones to figure out how to hack a vehicle.
Just about a year ago, a man named Todd Humphreys and a team of smarties over at the University of Texas figured out how to basically hack GPS and knock a drone off course.
This wasn’t a big deal at the time, but then they really turned heads sometime later when they used the same process to remotely hijack a 210-foot super yacht.
“With just a laptop, a small antenna, and a GPS ‘spoofing’ device, the team fed a stronger signal to the yacht’s steering system than the genuine one, incoming from actual GPS satellites. By doing this, they essentially tricked the ship’s computer into believing it was somewhere it was not, causing it to adjust its heading to stay on course.”
Scary stuff, considering this technique could be used to take control of planes as well.
Is Your Vehicle Safe?
Fortunately, vehicle hacking is still a theoretical threat — there have been no reports of criminals hijacking anyone’s car via Bluetooth or GPS. Plus, researchers like Miller and Valasek are presenting their findings precisely so that automakers and others can address these security concerns before they’re exploited.
Still, it’s troubling to realize how much our technology may be placing us at risk for the sake of convenient features like GPS or automatic parking. What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments.