We heard the first reports of researchers proving that you could hack into automotive electronic systems earlier this year. That work was based on tapping into the OBD-II port normally used by mechanics for reading diagnostic codes. That method of car hacking, however, is of limited value to cyber criminals because it requires having physical access to the underside of a car's dashboard.
Another group of researchers from Rutgers University and the University of South Carolina have just discovered that you can hack into a car's electronics wirelessly, which means any modern vehicle could be vulnerable to an attack at any time, even while it's being driven down the road.
The researchers used a car's tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) as their entry portal. Tire pressure monitoring has been mandatory on new cars since 2008 and uses a sensor on each wheel that transmits data over radio frequencies to a vehicle's electronic control unit.
By sniffing for signals from the TPMS, these researchers were able to track two different vehicles and even interfere with the signals. At this point, the real world implications are limited because TPMS sensors have a very short range and update the car's ECU only every 60-90 seconds. However, these findings underscore how as vehicles get more wireless connectivity, it's important to ensure those wireless connections are secure and encrypted to prevent mischief.
[Source: Ars Technica | Image: Lance McCord, CC2.0]