Car Hacking : New Thread in Embedded System

By | September 30, 2011

Are you busy protecting your computer from being hijacked by viruses, Trojan horses, botnets, and other malware. Well then take care of your car too, yes it sounds somewhat science fictionish, but a new white paper from the security company McAfee Inc points to some disturbing possibilities.

The paper, “Caution: Malware Ahead,” is written by authors from McAfee; Wind River, an Intel Corp. subsidiary specializing in mobile software and embedded software platforms (such as those for automobiles); and Escrypt Inc., which sells security software for embedded systems. It’s the first in a series of white papers about security for embedded devices.

Even though it’s in these companies’ interests to promote their respective products — and a few scare tactics couldn’t hurt — the increasing use of software in vehicles, including wireless integration via laptops, GPS, and cellular phones, could indeed create security threats.

As the white paper points out:

Automakers distinguish their models through electronics, and the trend of introducing embedded microcontrollers and communication capabilities is on the rise. These embedded devices are used in almost all areas of vehicles, including airbags, the radio, power seats, anti-locking braking system, electronic stability control, autonomous cruise control, communication system, and in-vehicle communication.

Many automakers promote integrated entertainment and communications systems, such as Ford’s SYNC, GM’s OnStar, and BMW’s Assist. Could anyone with even the slightest bit of imagination not think of the possibility of a movie or novel where hackers take control of vehicles that are spewing all sorts of wireless signals — cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS — that could be captured, decoded (if that’s even necessary), and controlled?

For example, the white paper cites how researchers from the University of California-San Diego and the University of Washington developed CarShark, a remote control software package, and loaded it on to a laptop that was plugged into a vehicle’s diagnostic system. While riding in a car next to the test vehicle, the researchers were able to use another laptop to stop the electronic brakes from working, make them work unevenly, turn off the engine, and falsify the speedometer reading wirelessly.CarShark also could be used by hackers in concert with decoding Bluetooth PINs. Even it can hack encrypted wireless signals , Open Source also seems threat !

That’s Right Comfort increases, maintenance also increases.

— Alan Reiter, President, Wireless Internet & Mobile Computing


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