Are you driving a hackable Beemer?

HACKT?!!1one! (Auto Express)
HACKT?!!1one! (Auto Express)

This is one of those things it’s easy to ignore, but I’ve been aware of it for a while: increasingly sophisticated electronic systems in vehicles mean more hackable vehicles. The happy fella driving a shiny silver BMW off the lot today is piloting a 2-ton PC with a buttload of potential cyber security holes. From Auto Express:

Modern cars have a number of electronic control units (ECUs), which not only control infotainment services, but also the operation of the engine, transmission and safety features such as stability control and anti-lock brakes.

If someone can hack into the connectivity system, they then have access to all the car’s other ECUs because there is currently no physical or electronic barrier between them.

Harman, a technology firm presenting at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), says “car hacking” is already here, and troubling. Auto Express quoted Harman’s Sachin Lawande, who said car hacking is “a serious problem” because “[the] infrastructure of many cars was not designed with networking in mind.”

That means that once a car dials into the internet, it may be critically exposed. A hacker could worm their way into major vehicle functions. Harman presented on the subject at CES, naturally, because they’ve developed software for networked vehicles that will protect the car’s vital functions, an industry first.

Protections like Harman’s will likely be widely available in a few years. In the meantime, enjoy your fine German transportation and if a savage cyber attacker takes over while you’re tooling down the highway, I guess just buckle up and enjoy the ride, and hope the cops are careful with the stop sticks when they deploy them under your compromised status symbol.

[Auto Express]