Aug 03, 2017 at 10:34

Imagine, you are in a car and running on a highway with almost 50Kmph speed and suddenly the car’s music system volume reaches to the maximum automatically, you quickly try to fiddle with the knobs but it does not help and then the car’s wiper starts running. By the time you understand what’s happening with you, the car stops suddenly and topples over while you are completely shocked with such automatic erratic behavior of the car. Our cyber expert, Amit Dubey on how to handle such a scenario

“I was at 50kmph when they hacked my car..”

Sounds scary, doesn’t it ?

Last month, the automobile industry got a jolt when few experts at the University of Birmingham demonstrated how they were able to clone a VW remote keyless entry controls by eavesdropping nearby when drivers press their key fobs to open their cars. Millions of vehicles sold by Volkswagen over the past many years and some current models, became vulnerable to theft because keyless entry systems can be hacked using some simple technical devices.

Hackers have listed a series of models, those can be hacked easily including, Audi Q3, VW, Seat and Skoda models.

However, this was not first of its kind incident, few months back, two cybersecurity experts, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, remotely compromised a Jeep Cherokee. They were able to disable the car’s transmission and brakes and demonstrated this hack when the car was running on road at speed of 50kmph.

They were able to control the AC bent to blast cold air at the maximum setting, chilling the driver out. They controlled the music system, its’ volume and the driver was not even able to switch off the system through power button and further they could control the wipers and were able to get a complete control of the dashboard system.

The way technologies are enabling uswith a connected world and the Internet of Things, we are also becoming vulnerable to such attacks and security issues.

Such hacking when you can control the car’s functionalities through a remote laptop may lead to serious crimes and even murder. Actually, there are ways through which one can hack any car even if it is not that high end. As per automobile standards, every car has an external plugin interface which is called On-Board Diagnostic System. Its typically located below the steering wheel of the car.

This OBD port can give you the access of car’s internal control functionalities, you can control most of the features of the car through this port. Normally people are not aware about this port as it’s used only for high level debugging or tuning of the car.There are Bluetooth and WiFi based OBD dongles available, which gets connected with the car and then you can control the car through your mobile phone or laptop using Bluetooth or WiFi interface. Normally the OBD interface will enable you to lock/unlock the car, starts the wiper or to control the light indicators only but with high end cars, these controls are available for AC or dashboard control, as well.

OBD II is one of the sensitive entry point for hacking a car. This port acts as the car’s command center that connects to all of the different computer systems. Mechanics often plug directly into this port to retrieve diagnostics for the car’s emissions, mileage, and engine errors.

Hackers can also break into the car’s command center without having to physically plug something into the port. They just have to find a hole somewhere within one of the networks to sneak in.

These open points are often created from software conflicts that emerge when code from one device like a CD player communicates with code from another device like a car’s on-boarding system. There’s so much code in a typical car from so many different vendors that it can be virtually impossible for automakers to know all the software inside their vehicles.

It has started serious discussions to make our cars safer, With the future lying around connected cars or driverless cars, this becomes much more important to create more secure interfaces for the car which can’t be compromised so easily.

At a time when we are excited with the concept of connected Homes, we need to be aware of the fact that everything which gives the convenience also brings some vulnerability to our daily life.

Nowadays, we have so many mobile applications available on Playstore, which can easily control your Television, AC and Music Systems. Imagine, if you silently control such systems of your neighbor’s house and scare him. It could be even life threatening to him due to limited awareness!


In Defence of Mediocrity
Somebody has to start speaking up for us, and rather urgently at that!

Mansi Tikko