Did you know that vehicles can be hacked too?

Today most everyone is aware of Trojans, viruses and malware, and so it will be with remote vehicle hacking


(INTELLIHUB) — As the sun rises on the internet of things, many people have failed to realize that the increased integration of all things “smart” allows for individuals with nefarious goals to enter our lives in previously unknown ways.

Bad guys or even your average tech savoy children, who aspire to become hackers one day, can remotely shut off your smart fridge — the consequences of which may be no worse than some spoiled chicken and rotten leftovers which you had planned on ditching anyways.

But now we to worry about webcams and microphones being remotely enabled, baby monitors being hacked into and now — even our vehicles.

For those of you who want a detailed picture regarding vehicle susceptibility, I suggest you check out one of several analyses done by Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek. There most famous report to date, entitled Remote Exploitation of An Unaltered Passenger Vehicle, can be found here.

In short, our vehicles are hackable and operating systems within our vehicle — referred to as Environmental Control Units (ECUs) can be exploited in order to modify or disable any function of the vehicle which is controlled electronically, which in this day and age equates to most everything.

Think of ECUs as doorways into the room, which has many doors, where you keep your valuables. Once one ECU has been exploited, it is game over for the targeted vehicle. The ECU which controls your radio or your air conditioner, in most cases can potentially be exploited in order to modify the ECU which controls the brakes or another which controls engine acceleration.

Even the FBI has chimed in regarding the dangers of vehicle hacking, which I find laughable since the FBI’s Operational Technology Division (OTD) has some really cool little devices which allow them to hack into vehicles. The BBC published an interesting article on the FBI’s warning here.

The article mentions that individuals who think that their car has been subject to hacking should immediately contact the FBI. Sounds to me like someone wants to learn what exploits are being implemented by the hackers.

And if that isn’t bad enough, it was announced last year that digital-radio broadcasts can be used to modify the a vehicle’s ECUs. In another timely news brief, the BBC noted that “the exploit could be used to seize control of a vehicle’s brakes and other critical systems.” Once again the team of Valasek and Miller “showed … that they could take control of a Jeep Cherokee car by sending data to its internet-connected entertainment and navigation system via a mobile-phone network.”

But have any of these techniques ever been employed in order to seize control over a vehicle? The answer may be yes. There is a hack which is referred to as “Boston Brakes” which can be employed to either cause sudden braking or to shut down the vehicles braking system. In the old days, radio controlled devices were installed on the target vehicle when it was parked. These days with digital-radio broadcasts, wireless entry and alarm systems, a smart hacker only needs access to one ECU to modify any of the other systems.

Some experts have maintained that Princess Diana was a victim of the Boston Brakes exploit. The Express published an article here, which summarily details the exploit alleged to have been used against the Royal. In a more recent example, a Sheriff in Arizona who ran afoul of one of the Mexican cartels was also alleged to have been taken out by the Boston Brakes exploit.

But what significance does vehicle hacking have for the public? As these exploits become more widely publicized and better understood, their frequency of utilization will unfortunately increase. When computers were first made available to the public in the early 1980’s, malware, viruses and exploits were rarely discussed, other than by IT experts.

Today most everyone is aware of Trojans, viruses and malware, and so it will be with remote vehicle hacking. Given the level of smart integration, these issues will be harder to avoid as vehicles are increasingly manufactured with capabilities which allow them to integrate with other technologies.

Related: Report concludes cars CAN be hacked

The author of this article, who prefers to use the nom de plume “XKeyscore” in order to maintain his anonymity, is a Doctoral Candidate and multiglot with two Master’s Degrees and a Baccalaureate specializing in Middle Eastern Studies. He holds one Master’s Degree specializing in Intelligence and Counter-intelligence operations, and a second Master’s Degree in Security Studies. XKeyscore has studied under a United States intelligence agency analyst and now-retired, high ranking, American military officers. XKeyscore writes exclusively for Intellihub News & Politics. Read more articles by this author here.

Image: Timo Newton-Syms/Flickr
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