You Should Be Scared Of Your Car

[Reposted from 10/27] Driving a car is an extremely dangerous activity that most people do everyday. It doesn't phase us that we share the roads with drowsy, distracted and drunk drivers, each wielding their very own 2-ton death-machines, loaded with gallons of liquid explosives. Unfortunately, there are other threats on the horizon. As more automotive systems become controlled by computers, your car is increasingly more vulnerable to hacker attacks.

The infographic shows the systems that can be hacked on any new car and many used cars on the market. The more robust and interconnected the computer system is, the more that can be done to your car. Of course, not every hacker is a psychopath with homicidal intentions. It is unlikely, but not impossible, that a hacker would go through the extreme effort to harm the average Toyota Prius owner. A hack-attack could even be harmless, albeit very annoying. Below we break down every hack by degree of severity.


Troll Hacks

Like those preteens who play ding-dong ditch in your neighborhood, some hackers are just out to mess with people. Nonetheless, these hacks can be unsettling. Imagine rockin' out to your favorite Kelly Clarkson song when suddenly the radio changes to a different station, turns to static or shuts off all together. Better yet, your horn starts blaring and the only way to stop it is to disconnect the battery.

Trolling hackers can even change the gauge readings on certain cars, particularly those with digital readouts. This picture of a 2010 Prius dashboard was taken by government-funded car hacking researchers. Newsflash: the Prius does not go 199mph.


Imagine looking down at your speedometer while driving on the highway to see 199mph, or perhaps 10mph. How about seeing a gas gauge that reads empty when you just filled up the day before? Troll hacks may be relatively harmless, but they can make you feel as uneasy as that random dude from high school who messages you every time you log onto Facebook.

Theft Hacks

These hacks are far more serious than troll hacks. The features that integrate cars with smart phones are convenient, but this convenience comes at a cost. Hackers can infiltrate the operating system in your car, gaining access to information that would allow them to send text messages from your devices and listen to your conversations inside the car. Considering how much we do with our smartphones, the information they hold is extremely valuable.


Many new cars come with applications that can control the door locks, open the trunk and start the engine. Hackers can manipulate this technology to get inside your vehicle and steal your valuables.


Don't get lulled into a false sense of security because your car doesn't integrate with smart phones and apps. Remote key fobs use radio frequencies that can be hacked giving burglars access to your car. Garage door buttons often located on your visor or rear view mirror, are also a target. It seems the only way to be truly safe these days is to avoid driving all together.

Deadly Hacks

Unfortunately there are some bad eggs out there who can only be beaten by the likes of Jack Bauer. These hackers aren't trying to steal the valuables in your glove compartment or change your radio stations. They're trying to harm whoever is in the car. Most of these hacks involve controlling the actual driving systems in the vehicle, such as engaging or disengaging the brakes, manipulating the throttle or controlling the steering. Drive-by-wire systems, which replace mechanical functions such as the brakes and throttle with electronics, are a necessary component of remote hacking. As manufacturers get closer to making cars driverless, more systems will be drive-by-wire, which basically means every car can be hacked.


Sadly, it doesn't stop there. Hackers can shut off a car's headlights, which can easily cause a driver to veer off the road and crash, especially if the driver hasn't been eating enough carrots. Furthermore, many cars today have GPS which makes them trackable. While that may not be a threat while driving, you never know what will happen once you arrive at your destination.


Did we scare you?

As of yet, there is no known case of a deranged hacker attempting this type of thing in real life. In fact, the only instances of car hacking involve thieves using electronic devices to unlock car doors. Getting your stuff stolen is never fun, but its not nearly as bad as someone shutting your headlights off at 85mph. Just because a hacker can do this, doesn't mean it's easy. Hacking a car requires a great deal of effort, and as long as its easier to steal personal information through other methods, its safe to plug your iPhone into your car.


However, experts agree that it's only a matter of time before a someone with extensive computing knowledge and a vendetta attempts one of these hacks in real life. No matter how robust the security systems in a car, a determined hacker with a motive will always find a way. Beware of surly-looking nerds toting electronic devices or aiming anything with an antennae at your vehicle.

Original story here

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