Every year we see new technology growing in leaps and bounds. One of the areas that has not moved as quickly – but is still progressing – are vehicles, in particular cars. In today’s world you almost need to be a computer programmer or engineer to work on a car anymore. No longer is it simply about an engine, but now a computer runs the entire system. Not only does it run the entertainment, air, and windshields it also helps you park and warns you when you almost hit another car.
While not fully functional we are not far off from being able to have driverless cars as a viable option. Now on one hand this seems like a a great idea, on the other you could easily raise issues with a computer being able to control all the features on a vehicle. Particularly the question is: how do you protect the vehicle programming that makes it run correctly?
Recently an article in Wired magazine shows that these questions are actually issues that currently exist. The problem seems to be the fact that the cars are not closed systems, but connect wirelessly, presumably to the manufacturer somewhere. This means that someone can access the vehicle remotely and mess with a large number of functions that could cause serious problems.
Wirelessly Connected Vehicles
The reason you would want a vehicle connected wirelessly is to add more features that match what you can do with your smartphone. They want to increase what your car does and how it runs. The problem is by being able to connect to the car wirelessly you are increasing the potential vulnerability of the computer in the vehicle.
The hackers from the Wired article have hacked vehicles before, but they had to be directly connected to the car. The problem is that now they have been able to connect to the car wirelessly and while they initially connect through the entertainment console of the computer it then connects out to other features.
One of the issues is that the systems of the vehicle are connected to each other. This is important because if you gain access to one system then you can add information to the other systems. We are moving towards having everything as closely connected as possible. We want our computer to work with our TV to work with our phone to work with our car.
Eventually a hacker will not have to connect to the car itself, but gain access to someone’s computer and they will find a way in to someone’s vehicle. With all of these connections it opens up more doors for hackers to walk through then having to connect to the single specific system. With information and entertainment devices this is not such a big deal, but with vehicles this causes larger issues.
Hacking a Car
When our computer gets hacked we can have our identity stolen, which loses credit scores and can cause bankruptcy. When someone can hack a car then there is a possibility that someone could be killed. From the article they point out that not only could they mess with the radio, air conditioning, and windshield wipers, but they were able to mess with the brakes and transmission. These are serious issues and something I have been wondering about, and it makes me even more worried about driverless vehicles.
As we add more technology there will be others who come along and figure out how to abuse that technology. When it comes to vehicles they need to meet the highest security standards or at least have some fail safe measures installed. With all the vehicles on the road a hacker could not just damage the one person driving, but also all the others on the road around them. When it had to be hacked by connecting directly it made it an unlikely scenario. Now that some vehicles can be hacked remotely it makes it a completely different issue.
Now-a-days we want everything connected to the cloud so that we can connect to it from anywhere and on almost anything. This does create a great new world, but maybe there are things that we need to keep as closed systems. The problem there is I don’t know that there is such a thought as guaranteed security unless it is a closed system and even then it is just more difficult – not completely invulnerable.
A vehicle has the ability to be a very large weapon because it is a heavy piece of metal that can hurdle at over 50 mph at people or places. We should want to reduce the vulnerability that allows people to illegally access and manipulate vehicles of any kind.