Posted Sep 14th 2014 8:00PM
Features in many new cars that are widely seen as the first steps toward a self-driving future may also making cars more susceptible to cyber crime, according to a recent study.
"You can have everything super-secure, but one part can compromise everything in the car, including safety." – Walter Buga
New technologies like park assist, adaptive cruise control and collision prevention are some of the first to hold an active role in driving. But because these features are specifically designed to, at times, exert control over a vehicle, it may be easier for hackers to write codes that carry nefarious intent, a first-of-its-kind study recently found.
"Attacks are likely easier in their presence than in their absence," wrote Chris Valasek and Dr. Charlie Miller, the authors of the report, A Survey Of Remote Automotive Attack Surfaces.
There's been no documented cyber attack on an automobile in the United States. But as automakers have rushed in recent years to add software that essentially turns cars into mobile computers, the industry and federal regulators have paid more attention to the potential consequences of a vehicular security breach. On Tuesday, David Friedman, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, asked automakers to collaborate on ways to thwart cyber threats.
Valasek and Miller, who presented their study last month at a convention of hackers, security analysts and researchers in Las Vegas, NV, offer the first public look at the underpinnings of the network architectures that govern how all these new components are connected.
Their conclusions on 21 individual vehicles are interesting on their own merits; indeed, lists of "most hackable" and "least hackable" cars spawned the initial wave of headlines sparked by the study. What's more notable, in retrospect, is its overall undercurrent. In response to consumer demand for infotainment and advanced safety features alike, automakers are adding software and computer components to cars at a rapid pace. At least for now, much of this technology leaves more questions than answers.