A few years ago, the idea of driving connected cars sounded utopian and far-stretched. With most of us still carrying a single ignition car key in our pockets, it was hard to believe that software engineers were already testing the security of the connected vehicles. To the public, this was just a scene in the movies. You know, when the driver loses control of the car because it is hacked remotely. The bad news is that this has already happened in real life as part of a research. Is that the future of cars? And why do we invest in a technology that is bound to threaten our safety?
What makes high tech cars vulnerable?
It’s been a while since most cars operate with transponder car keys. Although there are differences among them, these are all chip keys and communicate with the electronic control unit (ECU) of the car. This is the unit, where all the electrical components are found. The problem begins with high tech models in which the ECU is connected via internal networks. Experienced hackers will be able to hack the car via Bluetooth and similar systems and thus gain control.
Which are the potential threats with connected cars?
So, what happens if vehicles are hacked? Software systems operating connected cars control nearly everything. The least of your problem will be for a hacker to mess with your music or air conditioning. If hackers mess with your locks, things start getting a lot tougher. And the problems get even worse if they take control of the brakes.
In a split second, our concerns change. Instead of talking about car lockouts and missing keys, we are talking about serious threats against our lives let alone that your car can be unlocked and thus stolen.
Is anything being done to stop the madness?
We have good and bad news. The bad news is that connected cars are already in the street. Nearly half of the vehicles sold in the United States alone in 2014 were connected ones. What’s expected is over 250 million connected cars in the streets around the world by 2020. So, basically the future of car security threats is already here.
The good news is that the auto manufacturers work to attack the potential attackers. Or prevent cybersecurity threats. They are trying to find solutions by searching and testing ways to enable the car’s internal network to control the system and stop attacks from advancing once detected. They do that by focusing on the infotainment system, which is the unit with all electronic and mechanical parts (navigation, entertainment etc.). Their intention is to increase cybersecurity by increasing the defense against the external world. They also work on cloud services to spot and stop threats before the attack occurs.
Will you be safe driving a vintage car?
If you feel the earth under your feet trembling and decided to stick to your old fashioned car locks and keys, stop right there. Let us kindly remind you that even if you decide to drive a vintage car, all other vehicles in the street will be connected and thus vulnerable to attacks. And damage and safety concerns are not just raised for the connected cars’ drivers but everyone around – from vintage cars to pedestrians. If a hacker decides to break a shop window or climb a pavement, he can do it. Unless he’ll be stopped by even higher technologies. What keeps us skeptical is that the solutions are still in an infant stage while the connected cars are already around us.