In 2009, [Dr. Stefan Savage] and his fellow researchers published a paper describing how they were able to take control of a car’s computer system by tapping into the CAN Bus via the OBD port. Not satisfied with having to posses physical access to a car in order to hack the computer system, they continued probing away, and found quite a few more attack vectors.
Some of the vulnerabilities seem to be pretty obvious candidates for hacking. The researchers found a way to attack the Bluetooth system in certain vechicles, as well as cellular network systems in others. Injecting malicious software into the diagnostic tools used at automotive repair shops was quite effective as well. The most interesting vulnerability they located however, was pretty unexpected.
The researchers found that some car entertainment systems were susceptible to specially-crafted MP3 files. The infected songs allowed them to inject malicious code into the system when burned to a CD and played. While this sort of virus could spread fairly easily with the popularity of P2P file sharing, it would likely be pretty useless at present.
The researchers say that while they found lots of ways in which it was possible to break into a car’s computer system, the attacks are difficult to pull off, and the likelihood that they would occur in the near future is pretty slim.
It does give food for thought however. As disparate vehicle systems become more integrated and cars become more connected via wireless technologies, who knows what will be possible? We just hope to never see the day where we are offered an anti-malware subscription with a new car purchase – at that point, we’ll just ride our bike, thanks.
[Picture courtesy of Autoblog]