Could your car be Cyber Hacked? Car Pro News

Drivers can talk with each other via Bluetooth phone connections, ask their cars for directions and dial up satellite radio. The same cars use electronic components to signal the gas pedal to accelerate and control stability.
What increasingly worries scientists is that entertainment computers could be manipulated to tell the safety computers what to do.
“There clearly is a vulnerability,” said Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Arlington, Va. “All these electronics we’re bringing into cars seem to exacerbate that.”
A National Academy of Sciences panel, including Lund, elevated the concerns in a report Jan. 18 reviewing U.S. regulators’ work in finding the cause of unintended acceleration in Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles.
While safety and entertainment systems are intended to be separate, “it is not evident that this separation has been adequately designed for cybersecurity concerns,” the academy wrote. It agreed with U.S. regulators who said they found no evidence the Toyota incidents were caused by faulty electronics.
Automotive engineers at a conference in Washington last week said they aren’t immediately concerned that a hacker would take over a car and drive it off a bridge. Instead, they said, they want to help automakers spot vulnerabilities while they’re hypothetical and ease fears of consumers who are already familiar with cyberattacks in other areas.
Car thieves could exploit security weaknesses to remotely open and start a car, or a spy could listen to conversations inside a car, Stefan Savage, a University of California-San Diego computer science professor, said in a telephone interview. He co-authored a paper last year after discovering ways to hack into cars.
“The issue for the industry and for the government is that you’re one really bad situation away from it becoming a thing that people think about,” Savage said. “Much better to try to address it early.”
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which regulates automotive safety, needs better expertise in vehicle electronics, the science panel’s report concluded after studying the agency’s response to the Toyota incidents.
“This technology is changing so fast that NHTSA needs to make sure they can keep up,” Lund said. NHTSA is researching auto cybersecurity, Lynda Tran, an agency spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.
The one comfort for automakers rushing to address cybersecurity concerns may be that it takes a great deal of effort to hack a car, Savage said. He worked with a team on his research for more than a year.
“The average person, they’re much more likely to get their car stolen in the traditional way and the average person is not concerned about somebody bugging their car,” he said. “That’s a big advantage that the industry has and it gives them time.”


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