The most dramatic impact of wireless hacking of connected cars involves things that haven’t happened yet. These include such horrors as cutting the brakes or turning off the engine while the car is on the highway. In the real world – at least to this point – the main hack is starting and stealing the vehicle.
That’s a good thing, of course, in that it doesn’t immediately compromise the owner or leaser's safety. But it is hardly a preferred state of affairs.
Computerworld’s Lucas Mearian posted a story about research done by the Allgemeine Deutsche Automobil-Club (ADAC), a Munich-based organization, which found that 24 vehicles from 19 manufacturers are vulnerable to hacks that let them be entered and started. The hacks leave no trace, the story says. Wired says the research focused on European models and offers more details on how the hack works.
The tools and knowhow to perform the hacks are rudimentary. The stories list the vehicles and manufacturers. The hack involves the extension of the connection between the key entry system and the car over several hundred meters. The hack does not depend on the location of the original key. Alarms and immobilizing technology can be bypassed.
Last week, The FBI and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a bulletin that said motor vehicles are increasingly vulnerable to hacking, according to Reuters. The story referenced a 1.4 million vehicle recall by Fiat Chrysler due to hacking concerns and the release of a security update by General Motors when fears arose that the Chevrolet Volt could be vulnerable. The story suggests that hackers could send out emails that urge owners to install software updates. Those updates would lead to problems.
Perhaps a piece of good news is that people are starting to think about the hacking of cars – at least in the future. Before coverage of the ADAC research, Fortune detailed a survey that looked at the fears of connected cars. The survey, by Kelley Blue Book, said that hacking of cars is “a relatively minor worry” today. However, people are concerned about what is down the road, so to speak:
When it comes to the cars of the future, respondents changed their tune. When the researchers asked respondents whether they are worried that future automobiles may be easily hacked, 62 percent of respondents said ‘yes.’ Additionally, over half of the respondents believed that car hacking will become a moderate to serious issue in the future.
It is likely that sooner or later more serious types of hacking – the type that involves mission-critical systems -- will hit the news. Hopefully, that will lead consumers to insist that steps be taken. And, just as hopefully, those steps will be effective.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.