Modern automobile electronics 'hackable'


Creative Writer
I've not had a car for a while. I don't really need one where I live. But I've been watching the new systems on cars and they really worried me. From a scifi fans point of view, we see tales of cars being stopped on the highway by police using electronic counter measures. But imagine if that was reversed! Imagine if you could stop a cars brakes working, interfere with the steering, stop the air bags from deploying?

Well, that is what a group of scientists have been doing in the lab, and their test results statement is pretty damning.

Hack attacks mounted on car control systems

It appears the scientists needed physical access to the communication ports on the vehicle. This could be foreseen as government sanctioned intrusion, or a black-clothing balaclava-clad criminal tampering with your car on the street under the cover of darkness.

Read that story and I think most drivers would start to feel some worries as to what could happen to them whilst out driving if criminals gained hold of the technology used to attack cars electronics systems.

A recent look into electronic keys had me worried. A friend showed me how his worked. Sit in the car with the keyfob in your pocket, hold down the clutch pedal and hit a big button on the dash and the engine comes to life. I remembered all those epic journeys across europe, when had to occasionally sleep in the car. I spent a few minutes trying to see if a child could reach over, depress the clutch pedal and hit the button. They couldn't though, even with the driver sleeping in the passenger seat or back seat for comfort. It would take two children working in concert. I honestly preferred a manual key in the drivers pocket out of reach over this situation.

If/when I get a car in the future I will be concerned over this electronic hacking issue unless they radically increase the security by upping the encryption or protecting it from outside interference totally. Interesting to note one of the scientists stating:

"Cars benefit from the fact that they are (hopefully) not connected to the internet (yet) and currently are not able to be remotely accessed"

The type of electronics on cars that requires them to be put on the ramps and attached to a computer for £80 sterling a time to sort any issues out (including declining fuel mileage) seems an unnecessary expense to someone who can clean/fit manual points, starter plugs and leads and adjust the fuel/air screws on a carb to find the right tickover/power balance.

"As cars, and everything else in life up to and including even pacemakers or fridges, become steadily more connected and externally accessible, research such as this should be taken increasingly seriously by manufacturers," he added. "This represents an opportunity to head off a problem before it starts, in the not-too-distant future it may represent a real risk to life."

So much for technology increasing our lifestyle and its resulting safety concerns!