This story is a few days old, but I still want to write about it because it’s important.
The video at the bottom of this post is a must-watch video. It shows two hackers with a DARPA grant controlling functions of a car from the backseat, using a Macbook. From Forbes:
Stomping on the brakes of a 3,500-pound Ford Escape that refuses to stop–or even slow down–produces a unique feeling of anxiety. In this case it also produces a deep groaning sound, like an angry water buffalo bellowing somewhere under the SUV’s chassis. The more I pound the pedal, the louder the groan gets–along with the delighted cackling of the two hackers sitting behind me in the backseat.
Luckily, all of this is happening at less than 5mph. So the Escape merely plows into a stand of 6-foot-high weeds growing in the abandoned parking lot of a South Bend, Ind. strip mall that Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek have chosen as the testing grounds for the day’s experiments, a few of which are shown in the video below. (When Miller discovered the brake-disabling trick, he wasn’t so lucky: The soccer-mom mobile barreled through his garage, crushing his lawn mower and inflicting $150 worth of damage to the rear wall.)
“Okay, now your brakes work again,” Miller says, tapping on a beat-up MacBook connected by a cable to an inconspicuous data port near the parking brake. I reverse out of the weeds and warily bring the car to a stop. “When you lose faith that a car will do what you tell it to do,” he adds after we jump out of the SUV, “it really changes your whole view of how the thing works.”
The best part? This can, in theory, be done wirelessly.
The need for scrutiny is growing as cars are increasingly automated and connected to the Internet, and the problem goes well beyond Toyota and Ford. Practically every American carmaker now offers a cellular service or Wi-Fi network like General Motors’ OnStar, Toyota’s Safety Connect and Ford’s SYNC. Mobile-industry trade group the GSMA estimates revenue from wireless devices in cars at $2.5 billion today and projects that number will grow tenfold by 2025. Without better security it’s all potentially vulnerable, and automakers are remaining mum or downplaying the issue.
We’re getting to the point where all someone needs to do is hit a button on his keyboard that says “smite.”
In unrelated news, journalist Michael Hastings was killed recently in a fiery car wreck in Los Angeles, while reportedly working on a big story involving top government figures.
Cue Twilight Zone music; exeunt alles.
Here’s the video: