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Experts say increased use of computer systems with wireless connections to control certain aspects of a car could allow an attack to occur

Automobiles have become increasingly tech-heavy with entertainment and safety systems, which can offer a more convenient and overall pleasant driving experience. However, experts now worry that packing cars with too many electronic features can lead to the heightened risk of vehicle hacks.

Some universities and security companies have started verbalizing their concerns regarding vehicle hacks, saying that increased use of computer systems with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or OnStar connections to control certain aspects of a car could allow an attacker to deactivate brake systems, send fake warning signals to the driver and rob them when they pull over to check their car, or mess with other necessary components of the vehicle such as headlights, air bags, and cruise control.

For instance, a University of South Carolina study used one vehicle to send fake tire-pressure warning signals to another, which alerts that driver and usually causes them to pull over. The researchers concluded that someone could use this tactic to rob someone once they pull over and get out of the car.

Another study conducted by the University of California-San Diego and the University of Washington found that groups of vehicles could be forced to surrender their vehicle identification numbers and GPS coordinates, which could allow criminals to assess which vehicles are the most expensive. Once they've chosen a vehicle, they can track it down, disable alarms, unlock the car and start the engine easily via wireless commands.

Universities aren't the only ones revealing potential issues with vehicle systems. A McAfee report recently described an incident where a security tester was able to hack into police car cameras and delete, upload and download important files.

Warnings from universities and security experts have even reached the federal government, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) vows to look into the issue with automakers.

"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is aware of the potential for hackers and is working with automakers to better understand what steps can and are being taken to address the problem," said the NHTSA.

Some automakers, such as Chrysler and Ford, are onboard with figuring out ways around possible hacking issues after voicing their concerns. Automakers want to continue offering entertainment and safety systems in their vehicles, hence they want to investigate and work around the situation while still providing technologically advanced automobiles.

General Motors' (GM) Cadillac has already taken a step forward in upping its security systems in the 2012 Escalade. The new security features, which were announced last week, are specifically targeted to help prevent grand theft auto. Some of the new features include PASS Key 3+, an encryption system for the key; a robust steering column-lock system; an inclination sensor that sounds an alarm when the angle of the vehicle changes oddly, such as when it is towed; a shock sensor that would sound an alarm when the vehicle is "shocked," such as when a glass window is broken, and a new wheel lock system that protects wheels and tires.

"The goal is to make the Escalade a very difficult target for thieves without any added inconvenience for customers," said Bill Biondo, GM's global leader for vehicle theft prevention. "The new systems work in the background and few people realize they are there, but they are strong added protections."

While these added security systems will help, the question of what to do about hacking wireless systems and controlling the vehicle still remains. Some have even brought up the possibility of terrorist attacks, where groups of cars on a freeway could spontaneously lose their breaks and crash due to malicious software infecting the system.

Sources: The Detroit News, General Motors

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By shabby on 1/2/2012 1:01:25 PM , Rating: 2
We're all doomed, someone save us from the terrorists!

By anactoraaron on 1/2/2012 1:11:10 PM , Rating: 3
We've put these security measures in place for the children.

By TSS on 1/2/2012 1:30:55 PM , Rating: 3
Didn't i mention a while ago here that when the war on terrorism was winding down, the war on cyber terrorism would be the ideal replacement?

Cyber, Terrorist

You're not helping, tiffany.

In any case i find it funny how now terrorism and, well let's just start calling it what they want us to call it, cyber terrorism is suddenly linked to grand theft auto. Like cars wouldn't have been stolen this way if 9/11 never happened.

I'd say be very wary America. Soon there will come a time when sarcastic remarks on the internet aren't going to save you from daily reality. You do need to save yourselves from the terrorists. And they are every bit as evil as you've heard, the only difference is, they come from a different country then the ones you're told.

By Dr of crap on 1/4/2012 12:54:39 PM , Rating: 2
You better take your pill and take a nap!

By Argon18 on 1/5/2012 12:28:55 PM , Rating: 2
Nowhere in the article was Al Queda or Islam mentioned. Or the DoD. Or any wars. Terrorists come in other skin colors too you know. Unless you're a racist? Terrorism has been around long before 9/11, though some chose to call it by other names.

Feature Bloat
By EricMartello on 1/2/2012 4:50:22 PM , Rating: 4
Some of the tech they've been incorporating into modern cars is useful, but a lot of it is unnecessary, distracting or just an overall bad idea.

The whole thing about giving onstar or similar services remote control over your vehicle is a bad idea. I don't think that they need to be able to cut the engine or mess with OBD systems remotely. Those would be the main targets for remote hacks.

Things that shouldn't even exist include sleep warning, auto braking and other features designed to make a bad driver less bad. What is necessary is tighter driver license testing and issuance guidelines. Bad drivers should not be behind the wheel of any car...the whole being entitled to drive mentality is fail.

Other bad ideas:
- Drive-by-wire throttle. Why add several new points of failure to such a critical element of the car? Cables and springs have been working just fine; there is no benefit to making the throttle a servo-controlled device.

- Auto Parking. Learn to drive.

- Auto Cruise Control. If occasionally slowing down is too much effort for you to muster you should probably pull over and take a break.

- In-car Entertainment. If it's just for the back seat passengers, maybe, but for drivers or front passengers...there's no way anyone should be watching a movie while driving.

- Apple Product Integration: Because EVERYONE has an iProduct, right? Wrong. Either make it something simple and universal like a SD card reader or USB port, or don't make it at all.

RE: Feature Bloat
By croc on 1/3/2012 6:02:48 AM , Rating: 2
"Things that shouldn't even exist include sleep warning, auto braking and other features designed to make a bad driver less bad. What is necessary is tighter driver license testing and issuance guidelines. Bad drivers should not be behind the wheel of any car...the whole being entitled to drive mentality is fail."

The whole thing about being 'entitled' to drive would be made a moot point if there were proper and effecient public transportation. Until then, please substitute 'required' for 'entitled'. In NYC, no one really needs a car. In much of the rest of the country a car is a requirement for some of the little niceties of life - like getting to work, so the bills can be paid... So, untol it is possible for those 'bad' drivers to get to work some other way, making us safer from them is another necessity. And to that end, it is good that all of these 'unnecessary' frills be secured better.

RE: Feature Bloat
By JediJeb on 1/3/2012 1:56:05 PM , Rating: 2
Being required or entitled isn't really the problem. It is a requirement in many places and improved public transportation isn't going to solve that any time soon unless they can invent point to point transporters to beam people to work.

What does need to change is that everyone who drives needs to be better trained in how to drive and have it pounded into their minds how much of a responsibility it really is to be driving on public streets.

I saw once that in Finland getting a drivers license is a very involved process, which even includes I believe three training sessions on a water covered skid pad teaching drivers how to handle adverse driving conditions. In the US your whole drivers testing is being able to memorize the handbook for the time it takes to pass the written test for your learners permit then having to drive around a small course( in lower population areas this involves driving around the courthouse square and a couple streets) and showing that you have mastered the ability to stop at a stop sign and parallel park and use your turn signals. After passing this test the first time most drivers encounter an emergency situation they do the standard procedure of stomping on the brakes as hard as they can and locking their arms straight out holding the steering wheel perfectly straight as they slam into something.

Better training would remove the need for most of the improved safety devices everyone now feels are necessary for driving.

RE: Feature Bloat
By Dr of crap on 1/4/2012 1:01:06 PM , Rating: 2
Yea, right.
You want to restrict the ability of people who want to drive to get their license?!!?
Ha, that'll go over well.
Who will clog the highways on the commutes to/from work?
Who will cause accidents?
Who will be in a one car rollover on clear dry roads with no one around?
Who will make our insurance rates go up for something WE didn't do?
I don't want to drive home with no slowing or stopping on the freeway - no WAY!

ah the joys of classic vehicles
By Screwballl on 1/3/2012 11:33:19 AM , Rating: 2
Yet another reason why I prefer full size classic vehicles, aka 1970s models. Full shoulder belts, decent crash test ratings but without all the computer controls.
Add in a decent adjustment to the carburetor and a few tweaks and you can get a 30+ mpg (highway) V8 like I did with my 1976 GMC C1500 with 350 V8 and 4 barrel Edelbrock 600 cfm carb. Decent maintenance and they produce the same or less pollution than newer vehicles, better gas mileage, more power and less chance of theft if proper precautions are taken.

By JediJeb on 1/3/2012 1:59:51 PM , Rating: 2
My old 71 F100 was theft proof, mainly because nobody would ever want the thing. Only time the keys were ever removed was when I went to the city, just in case someone wanted to play with it. Heck I don't know if the doors were ever locked on it at all.

new systems
By macca007 on 1/2/2012 7:37:05 PM , Rating: 2
Some of those "new" systems aren't that new. My old car alarm also detects any odd angle if someone is about to tow the car or if the car is being jacked up to steal the tyres,I bet most alarms out there do,Otherwise it would be a pretty crap alarm. ;)

By tng on 1/3/2012 9:36:22 AM , Rating: 2
I am not worried that some cyber criminal or terrorists will hijacking my car, it is the federal government that I worry about.

Given a system like Onstar where the DHS can call them and find out where you are, where you have been and then disable your vehicle, Onstar is just waiting for the feds to abuse it.

And the Beat goes on....
By AEvangel on 1/4/2012 1:55:07 PM , Rating: 2
Must make them more afraid!!!

Must post more irrational crap that makes no sense.....make public afraid.

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith

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