Everything in our world is becoming high-tech. Even appliances such as dryers and dishwashers have become computerized in one way or another. While these advances have made our lives easier and more efficient, they also introduce new vulnerabilities to the many devices we interact with on a daily basis.
Take vehicles, for instance. Cars manufactured in recent years have become ever more connected to electronic control units that run everything from engine timing to safety systems. With everything in a vehicle connected to ECUs, there’s one serious question that needed to be asked: What happens if someone managed to hack into your car's system?
Forbes journalist Andy Greenberg found out first hand. Greenberg met with Charlie Miller, a security engineer at Twitter, and Chris Valasek, director of security intelligence at Seattle computer security consultant firm IOActive, to see how vulnerable cars are to computer hacks. The duo was funded by a grant from the Pentagon's research arm, the Internet-inventing Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, to find these vulnerabilities.
Using a Macbook connected to the On-Board Diagnostics Port, or OBD II, a port used to check diagnostic codes and emission readings from a vehicle, Miller and Valasek were able to demonstrate to Greenberg various hacks in a Toyota Prius and Ford Escape. They were able to demonstrate their hacking by doing simple things such as manipulating the speedometer and various sensors. More nefarious hacks included tricking the car into jerking to the left and right, controlling the horn, triggering the seat belt tensioner and even turning off the brakes entirely.
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According to Valasek, more than 35 electronic control units are present in the Toyota Prius alone. In March 2011, computer scientists from the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Washington in Seattle were able to demonstrate how cars could also be remotely hacked using built-in cellular and Bluetooth connections, according to a New York Times report.
What do you think about their findings? Let us know in the comments.