TECH

US Military Racing To Prevent Cars Becoming Hackable Weapons

25/11/2014 15:24 GMT | Updated 25/11/2014 15:59 GMT

The US military is working with manufacturers to stop cars being hacked and stolen or - which is obviously worse - turned into weapons.

There are no known instances of a hacker gaining remote control over someone's car. But hackers are now responsible for one in three car thefts in London, and there are fears that similar vulnerabilities could leave owners open to new forms of attack.

And while technology within vehicles has progressed, older cars theoretically remain vulnerable - particularly as few owners ever update their car's firmware.

While the government-backed hackers are busy creating the walls, security experts like Jacques Louw, Senior Information Security Consultant at MWR InfoSecurity are busy finding the weaknesses.

car hacking

"The danger comes in when this access can be attained remotely. This type of remote access requires an entry point other that the vehicles physical diagnostics port."

More and more vehicles are becoming internet-connected and wirelessly enabled with Bluetooth and this, Louw points out, is where things can get dicey.

"As security has not been a prime objective for vehicle manufacturers in the past these systems have been tightly integrated, leading to a situation where the security of an in-car media player can affect the car's brakes."

Recently, as outlined in a new AP report, the US Defence Department hired hackers to see if they could infiltrate the systems of a 2012 model car.

The hackers -- led by computer scientist Kathleen Fisher -- demonstrated they could create the electronic equivalent of a skeleton key to unlock the car’s networks.

That may take months, Fisher said, but from there it would be “pretty easy to package up the smarts and make it available online, perhaps in a black-market type situation.”

car hack

In response car manufacturers have created the Auto Information Sharing Advisory Centre, an organisation that'll collate and share all the latest updates on auto-hacking and in-car technology.

Already the system is looking to work with hackers in China successfully completing an industry-led challenge to see if it was possible to hack a Tesla Model S electric car.