Traffic becomes heavy as people leave the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada Photo: AFP

Connected cars moving targets for hackers


As cars evolve into rolling mobile computers, the potential for disastrous cyber attacks has become a new road hazard.

Israeli cybersecurity firm GuardKnox demonstrated the threat in a Formula 1 driving simulation at the Consumer Electronics show this week in Las Vegas.

Moments into the virtual drive, a GuardKnox engineer playing the role of hacker struck and the steering wheel no longer controlled the speeding car.

The faux race was over for the driver, stuck on the side of the road in a scenario that cybersecurity specialists say could become very real.

New car models are packed with computer chips, sensors and mobile technology that hackers could exploit to sabotage systems or commandeer controls.

Opportunities for attacks are being revved up by the trend of self-driving, electric cars communicating in real-time with the cloud, smart city infrastructures, and one another.

GuardKnox chief executive Moshe Shlisel gave an example of a hacker remotely taking control of a fuel tanker truck, sending it to crash into a building.

"It's September 11 on wheels," Shlisel said in an interview at CES.

Cybersecurity has become as integral to vehicle engineering as crash safety and fuel efficiency, according to Henry Bzeih, a former member of the Council for Automobile Cybersecurity, who spoke at the Las Vegas event.

"Connectivity is the reason why this is happening," Bzeih said. "Now, all elements have to be designed with cybersecurity in mind."

Israeli startup Upstream logged more than 150 cybersecurity incidents involving automobiles last year, twice as many as in 2018. The majority of those hacks involve remotely car door locks, but an increasing number targeted software applications or connections to the cloud.

Last year in Chicago, dozens of luxury cars were stolen by hacking Daimler's Car2Go app.

"The ultimate worst-case scenario would be if somebody applies one of the car functions when it's not supposed to do that, and does that across multiple vehicles," said Upstream vice president Dan Sahar.

"For example, someone hits the brakes on all vehicles of a specific model at the same time. That would be catastrophic."

Since cars in model lines share engineering specifications, they share system vulnerabilities by design.

"If you can design an attack and execute it on a computer, and that computer is attached to a car, anything is possible," said Ralph Echemendia, expert in cybersecurity and self-described "ethical hacker."

Five years ago, a pair of cybersecurity researches remotely commandeered the controls of a Jeep Cherokee by taking advantage of a vulnerability in its infotainment system, triggering a recall of vehicles.

Carmakers have responded to the menace by offering bounties for vulnerabilities found by researchers and paying partners to build security into components.

Upstream collects data shared to the cloud by vehicles, scouring it in real time for strange activity that could signal hackers are up to no good.

GuardKnox engineers drew on their experience in the Israeli air force to design a processor that protects computers in vehicles and also serves as a secure operating system.

As in the world of smartphones and desktop computing, hackers relentlessly seek ways to infiltrate new software or features in automobiles in an ever-escalating battle with defenders.

© 2020 AFP

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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I would have thought this was obvious. In fact, in 2015 it was proven modern cars can be hacked, controlled and easily stolen.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I say being back the 1964 Oldsmobile 442

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Look at that photo. What an exciting future we have designed and chosen for ourselves. Join the chain! Get taken for a ride.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why would we want a connected car? Disconnection is the answer. I can still go from point A to point B.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Its a matter of when.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

cars are so easy to steal now days, especially if you have keyless entry, crims can have a chip reader, they take the signal that you key fob sends out to your car they read that signal and program there own key as soon as they walk up to your car it unlocks and starts as the car thinks its you, no smashing of glass, no ripping out, or hot wiring the car. work contractors are loosing multiple thousands of pounds worth of tool on a daily basis in the UK, even if you take your keys upstairs to your bedroom they can still steel your car, as you key fob is still sending out a signal, some people are now putting them in a metal tin.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Brian Wheway Scary stuff. Should car manufacturers be held accountable?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@BBof C B yes, its a sad inditement when security has got worse although the general public think its got better!! most cars are stolen within 10 seconds, as for holding car manufactures accountable, well they will tel you that its better! HA! its not, if you want security, get a car with an old fashion key, it takes longer to get in and smash the locks or stealing locks, although its not full proof, it takes longer, so the crime know this so they target newer cars. the car manufacturers are aware of this, but they don't seem to be bothered, as they make money out of selling new cars to the insurance companies!!, vans are targeted by crooks, they "peal and steal " side doors on vans, if you get two big blokes pulling on the top edge of a side door, they are so thin they just bend open, so being able to hack into a computers ECU on a car, its just another way to steel cars, I suppose if you tell the ECU to open a door and disable the immobiliser there of with your new car!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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