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Researchers reveal methods behind car hack at Defcon

Lucian Constantin | Aug. 5, 2013
They plan to release a research paper and all the custom tools they developed

"We want other researchers to keep working on this; on other cars or on the same cars," Miller said. "It took us ten months to do this project, but if we had the tools that we have now, we would have done it in two months. We want to make it easy for everyone else to get involved in this kind of research."

Concerns that the tools could enable people to hack car systems for malicious purposes are valid, the researcher said. However, if it's that easy to do, then they could do it anyway; it would just take them a bit more time, he said.

"If the only thing that keeps our cars safe is that no one bothers to do this kind of research, then they're not really secure," Miller said. "I think it's better to lay it all out, find the problems and start talking about them."

However, fixing the issues won't be easy because most of them are there by design, according to Miller.

Car manufacturers won't be able to just issue a patch, the researcher said. "They'll have to change the way these systems are made."

Right now, there's no authentication when car computers communicate with each other, because they need to react and send signals quickly in potentially dangerous situations, the researcher said. Adding authentication will introduce latency, so the systems will need faster processors to make up for that. Those processors would cost more, so car prices would rise, he said.

Toyota Motor Sales and Ford Motor Co. in the U.S. did not immediately respond to requests for comments.

 

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