Newsflash: Car Network Security Is Still A Horrible, Very Dangerous Joke

from the I'm-sorry-I-can't-do-that,-Dave dept

As we've noted for years, the security on most "smart" or "connected" cars is aggressively atrocious. And in fact it's getting worse. As car infotainment systems get more elaborate, and wireless carriers increasingly push users to add their cellular-connected car to shared data plans, the security of these platforms has sometimes been an afterthought. Hackers this week once again made that perfectly clear after they demonstrated to a Wired reporter that they were able to manipulate and disable a new Jeep Cherokee running Fiat Chrysler's UConnect platform. While the reporter was driving it:
As the two hackers remotely toyed with the air-conditioning, radio, and windshield wipers, I mentally congratulated myself on my courage under pressure. That’s when they cut the transmission. Immediately my accelerator stopped working. As I frantically pressed the pedal and watched the RPMs climb, the Jeep lost half its speed, then slowed to a crawl. This occurred just as I reached a long overpass, with no shoulder to offer an escape. The experiment had ceased to be fun.
Uconnect utilizes Sprint's cellular network, and hacker/researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek were able to pwn manipulate nearly everything about the vehicle with a laptop in a house ten miles away. All thanks to one, unspecified vulnerability:
From that entry point, Miller and Valasek’s attack pivots to an adjacent chip in the car’s head unit—the hardware for its entertainment system—silently rewriting the chip’s firmware to plant their code. That rewritten firmware is capable of sending commands through the car’s internal computer network, known as a CAN bus, to its physical components like the engine and wheels.
The two used to have to physically modify cars to get access to these systems, but as vehicles have gone cellular, it has opened the door to a world of new exploits. And if you've ever experienced the incomprehensibly-clunky in-car GUI of most in-car infotainment platforms, rest assured that the quality of the system's security is usually in the same ballpark. Miller and Valasek will publish a portion of their exploit online during a presentation at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas next month.

The exploit appears to work on any Chrysler vehicle with Uconnect from late 2013, all of 2014, and early 2015. Chrysler/Fiat posted a notice to its website last week informing users that they need to update their in-car software either via USB stick (you can download the update here) or by taking it in to a dealer. Of course like many patches, most users won't be paying much attention to the warning. And we're only talking about Chrysler's UConnect; there's a bounty of half-assed security measures implemented in infotainment systems from automakers worldwide just waiting to be tinkered with by pranksters (or worse).

Of course cars aren't the only tech sector where security has failed to keep pace with ambition. "Smart" TVs have been shown to have similarly awful security, often sharing unencrypted user info (even conversations) with any hacker with a modicum of talent. In the rush to embrace the gee whizzery of the "Internet of things," there are more than a few companies that apparently forgot to bring security and intelligence along for the ride.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jul 2015 @ 2:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    For use on public roads, when the software controls brakes and steering etc. it should be certified before use on a public road, and that certification should be based on a full audit, testing via a test harness, and then on a track. Tinker all you like if the car is only used on private grounds or tracks, but not when used on the public roads, unless you can afford all the testing and certification before using the vehicle on a public road.
    When it comes to mechanical modification, and experienced mechanic can examine a vehicle and tell whether it is safe or not with 15 minute inspection. The same cannot be done for software, which requires much more time and cost in auditing and testing before it can reasonably be trusted. Also, legal action against a driver is no consolation to the family and friends of any person that they kill or maim.

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