Vulnerable Vehicles: Invasive Hacks in Connected Cars

Vulnerable Vehicles: Invasive Hacks in Connected Cars

Last Updated September 19, 2016

If you rolled off the lot in 1965 with a brand new Ford Mustang, there were only two options that determined if it was "high-tech" -- air conditioning and a radio. How times change.

These days, you can have just about any technology you want in a car, from wireless internet to Bluetooth to GPS to laser-guided cruise-control. Several automakers are even testing cars that can drive themselves. We've come a long way.

[click the infographic below]

vehicle hacking infographic

A $10,000 reward was recently offered to anyone able to hack into a Tesla Model S at a conference in China. While not sponsored by the electric car pioneers, the contest highlights just how vulnerable our vehicles have become as a byproduct of all this technology. In a partial win for Tesla, the most successful entrants only managed to flash the car's lights and honk its horn.

But Tesla isn't the only company making cars that are vulnerable to cyber-attack.

In fact, almost every major automaker now offers features that include wireless networking, the backdoor that hackers use to access vehicle systems. If a hacker gains access to them, engine and transmission computers, infotainment systems and even your own smartphone (when synced to your car) could be used to launch an attack on your car.

The growing number of computer systems baked into every new car that rolls off the production line makes the issue of security paramount as we enter the era of cybercrime and cyber terrorism. These days, the average family sedan might have more than 50 different systems a hacker could choose to target, many of which are vital to roadway safety.

Once a hacker gains access to your vehicle, it's possible they could control systems as vital as the car's throttle, brakes, restraints and locks. You don't have to think long to understand how deadly such an attack could be.

The problem is compounded when you consider that these vehicles will likely remain on the road for many years to come: Even cars safe from attack, when they are launched, could become vulnerable in the future.

And here you thought in-car tech couldn't possibly get worse than the digital dashboard.

Vulnerable Vehicles: Invasive Hacks in Connected Cars

These days, you can have just about any technology you want in a car, from wireless internet to Bluetooth to GPS to laser-guided cruise-control. Several automakers are even testing cars that can drive themselves. We've come a long way.