Hackers showed a California security conference on Tuesday how they were able to cut the brakes on a 2013 Corvette, emphasizing the vulnerability of critical driving functions to being taken over remotely through the Internet.
Researchers at the University of California at San Diego told the Usenix security conference how they could hack into thousands of vehicles remotely through a gadget – called a dongle – that plugs into the dashboard and is used by insurance companies and truck fleets to monitor a driver's location, speed and efficiency, according to Wired magazine
"We acquired some of these things, reverse engineered them, and along the way found that they had a whole bunch of security deficiencies," said Stefan Savage, the University of California at San Diego computer security professor who led the project.
"(The dongles) provide multiple ways to remotely … control just about anything on the vehicle they were connected to," said Savage.
The researchers were able to transmit commands to a Corvette's internal network that controls its functions and remotely turned on its windshield and disabled and enabled the vehicle's brakes, noted Wired.
They said even though they could only take control of the brakes when the Corvette was at lower speeds, due to limitations on the vehicle's computer functions, their virtual attack could be applied to just about any modern vehicle.
Andrew Hard of Digital Trends.com
wrote that the vulnerability may affect more vehicles that most people think.
"Every car sold in the U.S. after 1996 (and in Europe after 2001) employs something called an On Board Diagnostics Generation II (OBDII) port, which is generally located under the dashboard near the driver's side door," said Hard.
"That port is a gateway to the vehicle's array of sensors, whether they're assigned to the engine, transmission, brakes, or suspension. If you've ever had a check engine light come on and brought your car to a shop, the first thing a technician usually does is plug a scanning device into the OBDII port to diagnose the problem. Wireless versions of those scanning tools – called OBDII dongles – are widely available, and they often use Bluetooth connections to transmit vehicle data to smartphones."
Wired reported last month how researchers remotely took control of a Jeep Cherokee traveling along the freeway through its information system.
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