Fleet safety: security researchers hack a car
We’ve all seen those scenes in the movies where someone sits in front of their laptop with tonnes of code flying across the screen at an alarming rate as they hack to code for some highly important IT system. Well that may well become an all too familiar sight for certain telematics manufacturers, who will be re-writing millions of lines of code after a group of researchers discovered a serious weak point in vehicle security. They discovered that they could control some cars most vital functions via a small device that’s fitted to the dashboard, and typically used by insurance firms and fleet management systems to monitor things like vehicle location and speed. The researchers found that by sending a simple SMS message, they could transmit commands directly to the part of the car that controls its physical driving components – allowing them to control the window wipers and even enable or disable the brakes.
Just how easy is it to hack a vehicle?
The video below shows just how the researchers did it at the touch of a button, demonstrating their attacks on a Corvette. They show how they altered its windshield wipers and how they even activated and cut the brakes. Though the researchers say their brake tricks only worked at low speeds, they claim that they could have easily adapted their attack method for practically any other modern vehicle, hijacking other critical components like locks, steering or even transmission.
My fleet safety: should I be worried?
Whilst these initial tests may seem concerning at first glance, IT security experts believe the chance of a real attack by hackers is “slim”. This is a very similar case to the one of Fiat Chrysler, where security researchers hacked vehicles via the entertainment system. In this scenario Tim Erlin, Director of security and product management at Tripwire explained that “there are known best practices that can be applied to automotive software”. Whilst some claim that telematics systems are a likely target, the good news is that your fleet is unlikely to be affected. Keep up to date with these and other issues regularly here on the fleet news blog at Run Your Fleet.