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You’r Driving Along And ‘Boom’ Your Car Gets Hacked

Posted by: : Paul EbelingPosted on: February 9, 2015 You'r Driving Along And 'Boom' Your Car Gets Hacked

You’r Driving Along And ‘Boom’ Your Car Gets Hacked


Automobile makers worldwide are equipping cars with wireless technology, but they have not set out to protect those features against the possibility that hackers can take control of vehicles or steal personal data, according to an analysis of information that manufacturers provided to US Senator Edw. Markey (D-MD)

Senator Markey asked automakers a series of questions about the technologies and safeguards against hackers built into their vehicles. He also asked about how the information that vehicle computers gather and often transmit wirelessly is protected.

Sen. Markey posed his questions after researchers showed how hackers can get into the controls of some popular cars and SUVs, causing them suddenly to accelerate, turn, sound the horn, turn headlights off or on and modify speedometer and gas-gauge readings.

The responses from 16 automobile manufacturers “reveal there is a clear lack of appropriate security measures to protect drivers against hackers who may be able to take control of a vehicle or against those who may wish to collect and use personal driver information,” a report by Sen. Markey’s staff concludes.

Today’s cars and light trucks typically contain more than 50 electronic control units (small computers) that are part of a network in the car.

And all new cars include at least some wireless entry points to these computers, such as tire pressure monitoring systems, Bluetooth, Internet access, Key-less entry, remote start, navigation systems, WiFi, anti-theft systems and cellular-telematics, the report said.

“Drivers have come to rely on these new technologies, but unfortunately the automakers haven’t done their part to protect us from cyberattacks or privacy invasions,” Sen. Markey said in a statement.

Among the report’s findings:

Most manufacturers said they were unaware of or unable to report on past hacking incidents, and 3 automakers declined to answer the question. One described an app designed by an outside company and released for Android devices that could access a vehicle’s computer network through the Bluetooth connection.

A security analysis did not indicate any ability to introduce malicious code or steal data, but the automaker had the app removed from the Google Play store as a precautionary measure.

Each car manufacturer is handling the introduction of new technology in different ways, and for the most part these actions are not sufficient to ensure security. Hackers can get around most security protections cited by manufacturers, according to the security experts Sen.  Markey’s aids consulted.

Just 1 manufacturer appeared able to detect a hacking attempt while it was happening and only 2 described credible means of responding to such intrusions in real time. Information from most automakers indicated they would not know about a hacking attempt unless data from the vehicle’s computers was downloaded by a dealer or at a service center.

Most new cars are also capable of collecting large amounts of data on a vehicle’s driving history through an group of pre-installed technologies, including navigation systems, telematics, infotainment, emergency assistance systems and remote disabling devices that allow car dealers to track and disable vehicles whose drivers do not keep up with their payments or that are reported stolen, the report said.

50% of the manufacturers said they wirelessly transfer information on driving history from vehicles to another location, often using 3rd-party companies, and most do not describe “an effective means to secure the data,” the report said.

Manufacturers use personal vehicle data in various and vague ways to “improve the customer experience,” the report said.

Policies on how long they store drivers’ information vary. Customers often are not made aware explicitly of the data collection and, when they are, they frequently cannot opt out without disabling valuable features like navigation.

Last November, 19 automakers accounting for most of the passenger cars and light trucks sold in the US agreed on a set of principles to protect motorists’ privacy. The voluntary agreement was aimed in part at heading off possible legislation. Sen. Markey has said voluntary efforts do not go far enough.

The auto industry is in the early stages of establishing a voluntary information sharing and analysis center or other comparable program about existing or potential cyberrelated threats, said the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry association.

“But even as we explore ways to advance this type of industrywide effort, our members already are each taking on their own aggressive efforts to ensure that we are advancing safety,” the alliance said in a statement.

The Society of Automotive Engineers also has established a security committee that is evaluating the vulnerability of cars to hacking and is drafting “standards and best practices to help ensure electronic control system safety,” the alliance said.

The manufacturers who replied to Sen. Markey are BMW, Fiat-Chrysler NYSE:FCAU), Ford (NYSE:F), General Motors (NYSE:GM), Honda (NYSE:HMC), Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Toyota (NYSE:TM), Volkswagen (OTCMKT:VLKAY) and Volvo. Three other automakers: Aston Martin, Lamborghini and Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) did not reply to the Senator’s request for information.

Stay tuned…


Paul Ebeling


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Paul Ebeling

Pattern Recognition Analyst, equities, commodities, forex
Paul Ebeling is best known for his work as writer and publisher of “The Red Roadmaster’s Technical Report” on the US Major Market Indices™, a highly-regarded, weekly financial market letter, where he enjoys an international audience among opinion makers, business leaders, and respected organizations. Something of a pioneer in online stock market and commodities discussion and analysis, Ebeling has been online since 1994. He has studied and worked in the global financial and stock markets since 1984.

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