Hackers Reveal Nasty New Car Attacks–With Me Behind The Wheel
Stomping on the brakes of a 3,500-pound Ford Escape that refuses to stop–or even slow down–produces a unique feeling of anxiety. In this case it also produces a deep groaning sound, like an angry water buffalo bellowing somewhere under the SUV’s chassis. The more I pound the pedal, the louder the groan gets–along with the delighted cackling of the two hackers sitting behind me in the backseat.
Luckily, all of this is happening at less than 5mph. So the Escape merely plows into a stand of 6-foot-high weeds growing in the abandoned parking lot of a South Bend, Ind. strip mall that Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek have chosen as the testing grounds for the day’s experiments, a few of which are shown in the video below. (When Miller discovered the brake-disabling trick, he wasn’t so lucky: The soccer-mom mobile barreled through his garage, crushing his lawn mower and inflicting $150 worth of damage to the rear wall.)
“Okay, now your brakes work again,” Miller says, tapping on a beat-up MacBook connected by a cable to an inconspicuous data port near the parking brake. I reverse out of the weeds and warily bring the car to a stop. “When you lose faith that a car will do what you tell it to do,” he adds after we jump out of the SUV, “it really changes your whole view of how the thing works.”
This fact, that a car is not a simple machine of glass and steel but a hackable network of computers, is what Miller and Valasek have spent the last year trying to demonstrate. Miller, a 40-year-old security engineer at Twitter, and Valasek, the 31-year-old director of security intelligence at the Seattle consultancy IOActive, received an $80,000-plus grant last fall from the mad-scientist research arm of the Pentagon known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to root out security vulnerabilities in automobiles.
The duo plans to release their findings and the attack software they developed at the hacker conference Defcon in Las Vegas next month–the better, they say, to help other researchers find and fix the auto industry’s security problems before malicious hackers get under the hoods of unsuspecting drivers. The need for scrutiny is growing as cars are increasingly automated and connected to the Internet, and the problem goes well beyond Toyota and Ford. Practically every American carmaker now offers a cellular service or Wi-Fi network like General Motors’ OnStar, Toyota’s Safety Connect and Ford’s SYNC. Mobile-industry trade group the GSMA estimates revenue from wireless devices in cars at $2.5 billion today and projects that number will grow tenfold by 2025. Without better security it’s all potentially vulnerable, and automakers are remaining mum or downplaying the issue.
As I drove their vehicles for more than an hour, Miller and Valasek showed that they’ve reverse-engineered enough of the software of the Escape and the Toyota Prius (both the 2010 model) to demonstrate a range of nasty surprises: everything from annoyances like uncontrollably blasting the horn to serious hazards like slamming on the Prius’ brakes at high speeds. They sent commands from their laptops that killed power steering, spoofed the GPS and made pathological liars out of speedometers and odometers. Finally they directed me out to a country road, where Valasek showed that he could violently jerk the Prius’ steering at any speed, threatening to send us into a cornfield or a head-on collision. “Imagine you’re driving down a highway at 80 ,” Valasek says. “You’re going into the car next to you or into oncoming traffic. That’s going to be bad times.”
andygreenberg/2013/07/24/ hackers-reveal-nasty-new-car- attacks-with-me-behind-the- wheel-video/
The Tap Blog is a collective of like-minded researchers and writers who’ve joined forces to distribute information and voice opinions avoided by the world’s media.