Primal Numbers – Car Hacking

For the most part, car problems are predictable. A new set of brakes one month, maybe a new exhaust system the next. But now that our cars are getting more like driveable computers, there’s a new headache for drivers to face. It’s car hacking, a type of cyber attack in which hackers target the computerized systems and gadgets in our vehicles. And the results could be deadly.

It might sound like something out of Goldfinger, but the hacking methods exposed by security experts are very real. As this Reuters article explains, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek revealed the current state of the problem at a 2013 Def Con conference. Potential hacks included “manipulating the brakes of the moving [Toyota] Prius and the Ford Escape.”

For the record, Toyota and Ford aren’t the only carmakers that might be vulnerable. Researchers have highlighted the same potential issue with the computerized systems of other brands.

If You’re tempted to dismiss the idea of car hacking as nothing but scaremongering, you should know that security experts take it seriously. One project, EVITA, began work on a “security blueprint” for carmakers back in 2008. As part of their testing, they used a vehicle’s cell phone and Bluetooth connections to install malicious software?software that “could have been used to co-opt the car’s computer system, including its engine.”

So what does this mean for the average driver? Well, your onboard entertainment system probably isn’t laying in wait to take over your crossover utility vehicle. And there’s no need to start kicking the tires on a ?70s-era station wagon. But just like computers and smart phones, our vehicles could soon need to be equipped with antivirus systems?ones that can be updated regularly to stay ahead of the latest malware.

The immediate costs will be seen in the price for new vehicles, but It’s not hard to see how car hacking could have a much broader economic effect. Take transport trucks, for example. It could cost fleet owners tens of thousands of dollars to protect their vehicles with software, and those costs are bound to be passed on to consumers in the cost of retail goods.

The same goes for rental cars. Installing and upgrading software and other anti-hacking systems will no doubt be cheaper in volume, but that extra business expense will have to absorbed by someone. Then there’s the question of insurance policies. Brokers and underwriters will have to assess the risks and adjust their rates accordingly. Policies could even include a loophole that limits coverage if your car’s antivirus software isn’t up to date.

The promising news is that, with years of experience under our collective belts, consumers and programmers alike have gotten better at minimizing the risks. we’re used to the idea of firewalls and software updates. Many of the lessons learned with home computers and corporate networks can be applied to car hacking. It’s a familiar game That’s migrating to a broader field, but we’ve already got a rule book.

All That’s left to do now is decide between Morgan Freeman and Patrick Stewart for the onboard GPS system.

S.D. Livingston is the author and creator of the Madeline M. Mystery Series for kids, as well as several books for older readers. Visit her website for information on her writing.

%d bloggers like this: