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Mitsubishi Outlander dashboard. Pen Test Partners hacked it through the car's vulnerable WiFi network.
Mitsubishi Outlander dashboard. Pen Test Partners hacked it through the car's vulnerable WiFi network.

Hacking Cars

By Bill Moore

The more our motor vehicles connect to each other and the wider world, the more convenient they become. They also become more vulnerable to electronic hijacking by pranksters, hackers, and just downright bad people.

One of the many benefits Tesla Model S and Model X owners enjoy is the ability of their cars to be upgraded without ever setting foot in a service center. Tesla engineers simply send a command over the air that makes changes to the car's extensive computer system. In fact, it might be fair to say that Tesla cars are really just rolling computers that happen to look great and perform even better.

That being said, all that wonderful connectivity comes with a price and not just the one on the window sticker, but in the potential back door it offers to hackers intent either on mischief or malice. How long will it be before some Tesla owner finds his car has been hacked and is being electronically held for 'ransom'? "Pay up, sir," says the computer screen, "or you'll never drive this car again."

Worse, as more and more cars, EV or ICE-age, begin to 'talk' to each other while on the road, either as part of traffic management or accident avoidance or in autonomous mode, what might be the impact of malware or a virus that spreads through the network?

All of these scenarios and others have already occurred in a wide range of electronic devices: smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops. A hospital found its network held ransom, Iran's uranium enrichment centrifuges destroyed, just to cite two examples. Can automobiles be far behind?

Actually, it's already happening. Tesla's Model S was hacked last year. The most recent example is Mitsubishi's Outlander PHEV in the UK.

One company in Canada, Irdeto is actively working on addressing the threats posed by the computer networks that now are the nervous system of all modern motor vehicles. Last week, via Skype, we spoke with Daniel Thunberg, Irdeto's Global Head, Internet of Things, and John O’Connor, their Principal Architect about the threat posed to connected cars and what carmakers can do about it.

Here's that interview in two parts.

Video Part 1

Video Part 2

Times Article Viewed: 7823
Originally published: 20 Jun 2016

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