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Car Hacking Concerns On the Rise 95

Pat Attack writes "I think most of the people who read Slashdot know that if it has circuitry, it can be hacked. Well, the good folks over at CNN have an article about the potential for your car to be hacked. This article lists the potential damage that could be done, proof of concept work, as well as a few scary scenarios. 'With vehicles taking up to three years to develop, [security strategist Brian Contos] says manufacturers will struggle to keep abreast of rapidly-evolving threats unless they organize regular software updates. Instead, he says, any installed technology should be given a so-called "white list" of permissible activities beyond which any procedures are blocked.' My mom reads CNN and is a Luddite. I expect to hear from her today. She'll probably tell me my new car with bluetooth is unsafe."
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Car Hacking Concerns On the Rise

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  • by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @06:56PM (#39226521) Homepage

    Car hacking is bad. Botnets are bad. But what about a botnet of autonomous vehicles?

    Imagine owning a botnet of cars you could command to drive anywhere at any time. You could effectively close a highway or a bridge, prevent emergency response teams from getting to a destination, or switch the cars into some kind of "Carmageddon" mode where they target pedestrians.

    Yeah, we'd be pretty much fucked if this happened.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    any installed technology should be given a so-called "white list" of permissible activities beyond which any procedures are blocked.'

    They have such a list. It's called "an instruction set" and is contained in a piece of hardware called a CPU.

  • It is possible, and even practical in some cases, to replace the ECU with another device, e.g. []

    If you're paranoid, you too can spend hundreds of hours changing out your ECU and tuning the new one - then it won't be vulnerable to the standard attacks, though it will probably be vulnerable to others.

    • by stms ( 1132653 )

      The best solution is to have a manual overrid (that the computer cannot control) in all cars with self driving capabilities. That way if the driver notices anything funny they can go into manual mode. Of course that defeats the biggest benefit of self-driving cars you can't be sleeping, drunk ect. at the wheel.

      • I've always envisioned automated driving working more like a "turn signal system." Hitting the right turn signal would change your lane to the right as soon as safely possible, or take the next right turn if applicable. Hitting the stop button will pull you into the next available parking spot, or pull you over to the side of the rode if on a highway. I don't see myself, or others really, being very willing to give themselves over to a fully automated system, except for the most menial of tasks (like pullin
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The ideal is going back to separating hardware modules. However, as people want more features, having one component be able to access another is going to be a must.

    We can play with security additions all we want, but the only real protection is compartmentalization. The radio does not need on the same CANBUS as the drive-by wire throttle and brake system for example.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, but it makes it so much easier for brand lock-in, doesn't it? If my SAAB's radio dies, I have to go to the dealer to get a new radio "married" to the TWICE unit. Want to sell me a used SAAB radio? You need to get it "divorced" from your car, else I can't use it. Lose both your transponder keys? You need a new TWICE unit and new transponder keys programmed to work with the ECU ($1600+). Want to do this yourself? You can't! $4k for a basic CANBUS and CANDi, then an act of god to get the software from SA

      • There is good reason such makes go for very little at dealer auctions because they are horribly expensive to repair.

      • The more I read about new cars, the more I like my old car.

        For example, the tape deck is connected to my car by a few wires - power, antenna, speakers. That's it. No configuration, nothing. If I want, I can take the tape deck out of my car, connect it to a 12V power supply and some speakers and listen to the music.

        There are no computers in my car at all - no need to worry about software bugs or failing EPROMs, just check once in a while if all the linkages etc are not worn out or rusted.

      • And this is why I absolutely refuse to give up my 65. It's got absolutely no electronics that I didn't install nor does it require them to operate safely and efficiently and I didn't have to invest into $30+k worth of tools to fix the damn thing when something breaks.

        Currently, the only electronics installed are the LED rear tail light and front turn signal bulbs, drop in electronic ignition module (replaced the points/condensor) HID head lamps and the invertor I use to charge my laptop when traveling. Don'

  • 'With vehicles taking up to three years to develop, [security strategist Brian Contos] says manufacturers will struggle to keep abreast of rapidly-evolving threats unless they organize regular software updates." What? What does he mean? Why should it be any problem while it is still being developed? Unless It's a hardware hack I don't see how it should have any trouble receiving updates while it is still being made, more so after it has been released and updates are done via the internet which is much more
    • Because auto-manufacturers, especially in the US and Japan, still think it's 1955. They turn slower than the Titanic. They're all racing each other to get fancier and fancier add-ons to their cars, and don't want to be seen as the dinosaurs that they really are. So what are they doing? They're outsourcing all these computerized add-ons to the lowest bidder. They don't have a clue how they work, and don't have a clue what kind of security risk they pose. The schematics and software is all closed source so th
      • I consider my 1955 automobile extremely unhackable, actually. At least by the modern methods described here. It has circuits, but they're all analog. And 6V. And positive ground.
  • Hacking without physical access requires a network. If you don't want your car hacked, don't link it to the network. It's the tried and true way to prevent hacking. Cars have had computers in them for a long time, but they don't get hacked because they're generally not connected to any networks.

    • Cars have had computers in them for a long time, but they don't get hacked because they're generally not connected to any networks.

      If you have OnStar, you're connected to a network. A network that is indirectly connected to the Internet. And every brand is pushing their own version of OnStar. Watch some of the new car commercials, lock/unlock and start your car from your cell phone or laptop, etc. Car designers need to be thinking about firewalls, system separation, and sandboxing all code execution to e

  • Your car with bluetooth is unsafe.
    • I always liked cracking the lame-ass security that is usually used and send "messages from God" over the audio system in the car next to mine. It's hilarious.
  • by sunwukong ( 412560 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @07:22PM (#39226787)

    My mom reads CNN and is a Luddite. I expect to hear from her today. She'll probably tell me my new car with bluetooth is unsafe.

    Assure her it's nonsense and that you even wear a Bluetooth headset.

    Then scream, play a recording of Soundwave, and hang up.

  • ...before anything is seriously done about this.

    Until then it will be business as usual. And unfortunately when some script kiddie kills somebody it won't make the news. I worry that this sort of thing won't get fixed until a major "breaking news story" about hundreds of cars running off the road plays out. Only then will it matter.

    An optimistic alternative option is that the 'fear mongering' media run with this sufficiently to make it a big issue. This one of the times when the media's bias towards scary n

  • A bigger threat (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dmomo ( 256005 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @07:38PM (#39226963)

    Is how these updates will be applied:

    1) Automatically via some wireless service. Bad idea. I'd hate to even go there.
    2) In authorized service centers. This is scary because, the auto manufacturer will be able to warn us from going to non-authorized dealers, saying it's a security issue on top of a quality issue. We've already ran into these kinds of issues []. It's come up before here on Slashdot [].

  • Brian Contos has something to sell you and isn't afraid to use FUD to better his chances. The CNN reporter isn't very good either -- obviously he understands buzzwords but not automotive electronics. Here's the deal... Your car built since the 1990s is loaded with at least a dozen embedded microprocessors, probably more. However, it is likely that at most two are running a mainstream operating system such as Linux or (much as I hate to say this) some form of MS Windows. Those two the "infotainment" and tel
  • by silverhalide ( 584408 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @08:10PM (#39227287)

    This article is crap. They only quote a CD-based infotainment attack which requires access to the vehicle, and an aftermarket system attack which was poorly engineered. They describe a TPMS DOS attack (RF interference from the sensors) that might make your check tires light come on. Boring.

    Right now, if you car doesn't have a RF transceiver, there is nothing to worry about since gaining physical access to the network requires breaking into the vehicle.

    If your car does have an RF link (bluetooth, cell phone), you're still relatively OK - infotainment systems as a rule are very segregated from the powertrain networks and usually only linked by a CAN bus that only supports some high level messaging. The Infotainment ECUs do not share the same CAN bus as the powertrain components and there is generally an ECU that acts as a "firewall" such that any DOS-style attacks on the infotainment CAN bus won't affect the other vehicle systems.

    I will concede that vehicles with OnStar are a bit more concerning, as I think OnStar has more hooks into the rest of the systems, although I'm not sure how deep. So that is one to worry about...

    There have been some attacks demonstrated against the outward facing systems where an attacker can mess with your radio, but the systems are architected such that an attacker needs physical access to the bus to do any real damage to a vehicle.

    Here's a good discussion: []

    • by Karlb ( 87776 )

      I was going to say the article is crap, but you said it much better... What the hell is with slashdot these days.

      Moon is made of cheese says the Daily Mail. My mum reads that paper and isn't an astronomer. She is now sad! (yes I read the article, it's rubbish too)

  • We seem to have this default assumption that if we can digitize something, we should. I'm no luddite, but we need to seriously examine this assumption. If something can be done mechanically in a time-tested and relatively simple way, there needs to be some serious reflection before we introduce a whole slew of new points of failure for the sake of a slick digital interface with touchscreens, ipod docks, and internet connections.

    We seem incredibly eager to insert as many new complexities as possible, because

  • by dltaylor ( 7510 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @08:14PM (#39227341)

    The Luddites were workers being displaced by machines.

    Regarding all technological "innovation" (which may, or may not, be useful "progress") with suspicion is not Luddite behavior, just sane, healthy skepticism. Being locked into a BMW, unable to lower the windows, provide any powered ventilation, or drive the car (or Ford Explorer, as a recent tester found), is the result of larding cars with cheap electronic gizmos without being required to put them through some really stringent testing. A glitch in your car's MP3 player that only makes it skip some songs is mildly annoying; if the MP3 player happens to be in control of pretty much everything ('cause why pay for more CPUs?) and same glitch causes it to execute some exploit code embedded in the MP3 (DX8 or 9), then you've got an utterly untrustworthy vehicle that should be banned from public thoroughfares. With MS building the stacks for some of these, I wonder how many "snoop your ride (be careful what you say/do when it has an internal microphone/camera)" back doors are in those systems, not to mention (although I will) the OnStar-style snoops.

  • I think modern cars have same effect to driving skills than pocket calculators did to mathematical skills.

    In the good old days people could do basic math in their heads, now they use calculators even for the simple math problems.

    Old cars didn't have ABS brakes and traction control, you noticed quite quickly when road was slippery and also learned how to really drive a car.

    Modern cars don't give similar warning, maybe some light flashes in dashboard telling you that traction control was needed, but you don't

    • This. I have a friend in his mid 20s who has never driven a car without voice GPS, has never navigated in a car using only road signs and/or physical map, and wouldn't feel confident to drive anywhere he has never been before unless the GPS is working. I was shocked when he admitted this. It seems that giving control of something so fundamental as knowing where you are going over to something as inherently unreliable as a computer is dangerous, and I think the same is true of the vital mechanical functio
      • You almost described me.

        I use GPS to go somewhere where I hasn't been before (or only a couple times and the route is complicated). Usually, before going there, I plan the route on my PC, because sometimes the routing software picks out a route that I do not like (maybe I would like to go around a town, even if it adds 10km to my 200km trip), I also sometimes notice better routes than I have known before. My parents rarely use maps, just string along multiple partial routes ("if I want to get from point A t

        • by RealUlli ( 1365 )

          Once I have been there a couple of times, I can usually remember the route and drive without GPS. I still use GPS when driving on the highway so I don't miss the exit, but if the receiver was not working, I still could go to my destination

          Same with me. An additional reason for me using GPS on long distance trips is traffic jams, or rather, getting warned of them in time, getting them evaluated about impact on route, and if necessary get an alternative routing.

  • by anubi ( 640541 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @08:40PM (#39227625) Journal
    This thread has been an interesting read. You have reconfirmed my apprehension for newer automotive technologies.

    Two of them, ABS braking and fuel injection ( with OBD2 ), I am all for. The rest of 'em though seem to me a design from Rube Goldberg.

    Don't get me wrong. I love driving aids, especially GPS, and I love OBD2 that lets me see how the Engine Control Unit is faring.

    I am a "control freak". I feel responsible for what my machine does. I want the assurance of a steel rod running from my steering wheel to the rack-and-pinion gearing steering the front tires, and knowing there is no way for anyone to instruct my car to ignore my steering commands. Same with the brakes - hydraulics. And acceleration/fuel for the engine - a cable linkage.

    These, I understand, and have an inner feel for when anything is amiss.

    "Drive by Wire" scares the hell out of me.

    This whole thread gives me comfort knowing that I said the right thing to the repair garage a few months ago when they told me it was going to cost right at one thousand dollars to re-do the entire braking system on my nearly 40 year old toyota, that has hauled me nearly a half a million miles. They advised me it was an old car and not worth all that much. Well, maybe not to them, but I have come to really have a love for the simplicity of that old car. I had them redo the whole shebang - every cylinder, caliper, shoe, and hose. By golly, I consider the brakes the most critical part of the car. If ANYTHING works, the brakes will,

    As one of the other posters noted, it is a great fear of mine too that "pranksters" will discover access pathways into a fancy car and wreak havoc by remote control, anonymously, just for the fun of watching the crash. Its the same thing that made "Winnuke" so popular back in the early internet days, when we found out we could send just one malicious packet to someone to give them the blue screen of death. We'd do it for the pure fun of it.

    Although I like the new car's interiors, for now I will consider them a "rich man's toy" because they are so expensive to maintain.

    As a side note, its not the cost that kills my enthusiasm, rather it is my impression of quality. I believe in getting good value for my money. I have even been spending $15-$20 for flashlights... ( Ultrafire WF-502B's with various P60 LED engine cartridges - and only WF-502B ) because these lights are made to last, and being the owner of a few laptops, I have plenty of the Lithium 18650 cells these lights use. I am hooked on those 18650 cells giving their second life powering things on the cell level ( 3.6 to 4.2 volts per cell ) when the laptop battery pack fails. Meanwhile I have plenty of little dollar-store LED lights, and have retrofitted my old filament-based D-cell flashlights with LED's

    Most of the time, newer technology is better, but its not always the case.

    Sometimes its just not "done" yet and other times it wasn't such a good idea in the first place but some marketer saw a buck in it.

    Well, anyway, that's my take.
    • I prefer the basic simplicity of the controls on many of the older vehicles. On my dad's old 1971 Volvo, I did not have to take my eyes off of the road to adjust the defroster, heater, air-conditioner, or radio. I knew where each knob and lever was, without looking, and could easily adjust them by feel.

      I still drive a 20 year old pick-up truck which still runs reliably and looks like new. The controls are not as simple as the 1971 Volvo, but they are very simple compared to newer cars. My only criticism is

      • The lack of ABS can be somewhat mitigated by driving slower if the road looks slippery (wet, snowy, iced over).

        I also prefer manual transmission - one of the reasons is that it can be used to brake with the engine, in case the brakes fail. It also allows the car to be push started if the battery is too weak.

        I have a modern tape deck (not a CD/MP3 player) and I use GPS when I need it.

        Still, my 30 year old car is easy to understand and repair, so I too hope that I can continue driving it for many years. Since

        • I do have a manual transmission (european, automatic is for whimps) Push-starting is not possible, however. The injection system is cpu-controlled, and needs a stable voltage to work. Besides, the car is too heavy to push anyway. Still, modern automatic transmissions (not the hydraulic ones) are close to being more fuel efficient than manuals. And automatic transmissions are especially convenient in rush-hour, with many start-crawl-stops.
          • The injection system is cpu-controlled, and needs a stable voltage to work. Besides, the car is too heavy to push anyway.

            While my car has an engine with a carburetor, it still needs the battery to operate the fuel line valves (the ones that select LPG or petrol). Still, it is quite possible that a battery can be too weak to turn the starter motor, but strong enough to supply the few amps to the valves (or in your case, the injection system).

            Unless your car is a truck, being too heavy to push (what, 2000kg?) does not mean that push starting is not possible. It can still be possible to start the car if there are more people to

          • by adolf ( 21054 )

            Are you sure you can't push start your car?

            I've never tried push-starting my E36, per se, but I've purposefully stalled the engine while in motion, coasted a bit, selected an appropriate gear, let the clutch out, and it sprung back to life.

            I mean: There's nothing at all stable about a car that has the starter motor turning the engine over...

      • by adolf ( 21054 )

        I drive a 17 year old BMW. It no longer looks new. I bought it inexpensively a half-dozen years ago.

        It has a dizzying array of buttons and functions.

        I don't generally use them for anything, though the digital voltmeter function is handy for diagnosing electrical problems.

        The heater controls have the correct amount of automatic-ness. All I have to do is pick a fan speed using the big knob on the left (clockwise==more, counterclockwise==less, culminating in off), and the direction of airflow using the big

  • Not to worry. All new cars will be sandboxed so you can only use a professional driver on a closed course. Goofy, you say? Sure, but you can always take mass transit to work.

  • The kind that require an "always on" internet connection? Yes, let's increase the exposure of our vehicles. Surely it's better to increase the network availability of an already vulnerable system. Wouldn't want to lock down all radio-based vectors of attack at all. I mean, I know I'll be checking the logs and monitoring the spectrum for transmissions to and from my car, 24/7. That sounds safe.

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann