GPS Service Vulnerability Opened Door To Remote Vehicle Shutdown
from the I'm-sorry-I-can't-do-that,-Dave dept
We’ve highlighted for years how flimsy (read: often nonexistent) privacy and security standards in the internet of things space is opening the door to all kinds of problems, from historically-massive DDOS attacks to your refrigerator leaking your Gmail login data. And while your your not-so-smart kettle exposing your network credentials is intimidating enough, the problem is far more worrisome in the “smart” automobile space, where a compromised system could prove decidedly more, oh, fatal.
Most modern car infotainment GUIs hint at the sloppiness lingering just beneath. Security researchers have routinely highlighted how many cars are absurdly vulnerable to not just hacking but a near-total takeover of in-car systems. They’ve similarly noted how historically, automaker efforts to patch these vulnerabilities are slow to arrive–if they arrive at all.
Granted it’s not just retail vehicles that pose a security risk. Last week, researchers highlighted how GPS units installed in many fleet automobiles (designed to help companies track their shipments or employees as they travel) could also be somewhat easily compromised, allowing attackers to track these vehicles and their drivers without their permission:
“The hacker, who goes by the name L&M, told Motherboard he hacked into more than 7,000 iTrack accounts and more than 20,000 ProTrack accounts, two apps that companies use to monitor and manage fleets of vehicles through GPS tracking devices. The hacker was able to track vehicles in a handful of countries around the world, including South Africa, Morocco, India, and the Philippines.”
The origin of this vulnerability? The manufacturers of these systems thought it would be a good idea to give all customer accounts the default password of…”123456.” Worse perhaps, because these systems are so closely tied to a vehicle’s network and computers, the hacker found he could actually disable some vehicle systems (since that’s a function already embedded in these services app platforms). In this case (fortunately), only if the vehicles are traveling at speeds slower than 12 miles per hour.
The researcher who discovered the problem noted it wouldn’t be hard to use such vulnerabilities to create some notable urban headaches:
“On some cars, the software has the capability of remotely turning off the engines of vehicles that are stopped or are traveling 12 miles per hour or slower, according to the manufacturer of certain GPS tracking devices…?My target was the company, not the customers. Customers are at risk because of the company,? L&M told Motherboard in an online chat. ?They need to make money, and don’t want to secure their customers.”
Comforting. Over the last decade some have tried to argue that dismal vehicle security practices are being over-hyped, yet a steady parade of reports have indicated the problem is very real. As everything becomes interconnected and the quest to build interlinked smart cities and smart vehicles takes off, the door opens ever so wider to somebody using our collective privacy and security apathy in a very troubling way at an even more troubling scale — something security experts like Bruce Schneier have been warning about for some time.