Internet-enabled Cars Vulnerable to Attack, says Expert

Brandon Dimmel's picture

Is your car less likely than your desktop computer to be infected with malware?

The answer may surprise you. Security expert Mark O'Neill believes that automotive companies need to think very carefully about protecting the high-tech vehicles they're now offering consumers in greater numbers than ever before.

O'Neill currently serves as vice president of innovation at UK-based software firm Axway. His scary prediction for 2014 is that we'll see far more hackers target vehicles than in previous years.

More Malicious Attacks Coming, Expert Says

"I think we are going to see more malicious attacks," O'Neill said. "If someone finds a vulnerability in an Internet-enabled car, you could have the same situation that you have now for [web] browsers."

So, what could a hacker do to an unprotected connected car?

The possibilities are frightening, to say the least. The scariest scenario would involve zero-day attacks, or attacks that hackers learn about long before security experts become aware of the threat.

"If someone finds a zero day attack that can ... [exploit] ... a car, you could see people paying a lot of money for that," O'Neill said. "There could become a market for zero day attacks on cars."

Considering that an Internet-enabled car is not much different than PC, it's certainly plausible that any part of the system could be overridden - including door unlocks, brakes, steering, and more.

Automotive Firms Lagging Behind Hackers

The good news is that a number of automotive and technology firms have cooperated in bringing connected cars to market; this cooperation could easily be extended to focus on security.

The bad news is that, right now, there are few automotive companies willing to talk at length about security threats to their connected vehicles.

Part of the problem may be that it's not clear how these firms, the government, or law enforcement officials will work together to combat hacker attacks.

"I think the privacy legislation will have to be updated to deal with [these] scenarios," O'Neill says. "By its very nature, a car can travel between jurisdictions -- to at least aline that [fact] with law across jurisdictions will be important."

What's Your Opinion?

Do you own an Internet-enabled car and are you worried that it could be maliciously controlled by a third-party? Could the government or NSA (National Security Agency) 'hack' your car? Tell us what you think - respond below!

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gi7omy's picture

Now that's the old MS slogan coming back to haunt "Where do you want to go today?" LOL

magicmusicpro's picture

The article adresses only a part of the dangers involved.
The Informatics craze (most severe) has invited a plethora of driver distractions. Internet access is an added danger to other drivers and pedestrians.

Cars are meant to be driven, by an aware & competent operator - not a passive, distracted occupant, who may as well, be in conversation with others in the car.

There is nothing competent, or safe, about Internet access in a moving vehicle, just as there is nothing safe about hacker attacks, or texting, or engaging in cellphone calls.

V8powered944's picture

Internet enabled cars? Is there even a question that it isn't safe? We have accelerate by wire, brake by wire and now steer by wire will soon be implemented if not already. All a hacker will need to do is start taking control of the cars systems. Just think, you are driving at 55 MPH and suddenly the car turns left into oncoming traffic. I will be driving a car without any drive by.. anything or internet capability. I already read that there is a company that was able to access a car through OnStar in a lab.
Now they want to make the cars drive by themselves so lives will be saved. Just think about how many fatal accidents could created with this new technology.

They can already hack into the US military so what makes anyone think they will not be able to hack cars? Just think how our wonderful government could secretly target people by killing them with their cars? Just wonderful, they would just blame hackers. How convenient.

This is not even addressing the fact that states are making laws to try to keep people from using their cell phones in the car while driving. Now they want to let people use the internet?