Hacking The Self-Driving Cars – The Next Great Threat

Self-Driving Cars will become the next target of some notorious hackers! 

Self-Driving cars

Years ago, you might have turned down the remark made by someone when they said, “Self-driving cars will rule the world one day.” What now seems a new technological invention was considered a myth by many in the history of the world! The research on Self-driving Cars started in the early 1920s though only very recently we’ve found greater scope in this field.

Science has been consistently proving that only change is permanent, and there is nothing that can swap places with it. You might sit behind the wheel, and not necessarily drive your car and that is how we define a Self-Driving car.

However, with the automobile industry going digital, it’s no more limited to small applications like having microprocessors that control your air conditioner, check on your fuel, or allow keyless entry. Cars will turn now wireless, connected to the internet. And where the internet is concerned, there’s scope for hacking and malicious usage.

Now that Self-driving cars are ready to hit the roads, there is a need for us to try and understand the possible threat they would face in the years to come!

Is Car Hacking for Real?

Car hacking is one solid potential threat self-driving cars will have to go through. It would unshackle the chaos on roads that would lead to dire consequences. While critics are dismissing this view (majorly because self-driving cars are yet to rule the market), we can’t undermine it anymore. With more and more cars going online, it’s time we fix this issue in the early stages.

Most of the automobiles will rely on real-time updated maps and other information, which needs an internet connection.

A recent demonstration of the hacking of a Tesla Model S by researchers Kevin Mahaffey and Marc Rogers was a petrifying experience, as they were able to unlock the car from a remote distance and drive away. The researchers explained how they accessed a particular file – carkey.tar, in one of the removable SD cards fitted into one of the devices behind the Model S’ dashboard. Once the car got connected to the Wi-Fi of Tesla service centre, they were able to command it. All that they needed was physical access to it and consequent tampering of the systems, and that is not quite a hard task!

Self-Driving cars

What could happen?

All sorts of wrong things can happen if with the hacking of self-driving cars. The dangers are obvious. Car hacking probably will be used to terrorise people. Notorious Hackers can perform a broad range of attacks on a vehicle. This includes the loss of the control of a driver or operator over their system.

Secondly, hacking the tire pressure system is another method the hackers might use, that might deflate or inflate the tyres. In a particular case, hackers managed to gain access to this system and generated an error message on the display claiming all deflation of tyres. Just imagine what mutilation that could cause!

Finally, disabling brakes, honking the horn uselessly, controlling windshield wipers and audio systems, shutting down the engine, accelerating the car or reducing the speed of the vehicle bringing it to stop at unwelcome traffic positions can cause not just confusion but most fatal mishaps.

Self-Driving cars

We’ve seen man cases of hackers demanding a ransom for giving users access to their laptops. Very soon, this can happen with the cars too. Imagine having to pay a ransom for the threat of losing access to your car for which you’ve spent an impressive amount on buying it.

Self-Driving, Safe Driving

It is highly essential to take sufficient measures to stop car hacking before it becomes the next trending threat. Firms like Argus have already started designing systems to protect vehicles from such threats. Tesla Motors is said to have been paying hackers full time to keep having a go at cracking their car systems and expose flaws to be patched. At a personal level, each must stop or keep an eye on the physical presence of strangers inside their vehicle.

The FBI has already warned about the probable risks of cars and trucks that are vulnerable to remote hacking. The agency advises the customers to contact the vehicle manufacturers and keep themselves updated. Phishing is another strategy hackers could take the aid of, to gain access to your car. You might want to make sure your car dealer/serviceman is legitimately that, and not a conman before you give him access to your vehicle.

So, it is highly important that we follow the idea of “prevention is better than cure”.