The Center for Automotive Embedded Systems Security (CAESS) conducted a study showing what could happen if a determined hacker went after the computer systems embedded in cars. The researchers found that, among other things, an attacker could disable the vehicle’s brakes, stop its engine, or take control of its door locks. All the attacker needs is access to the federally mandated onboard diagnostics port– located under the dashboard in almost all cars today.
The researchers point to a recent report showing that a typical luxury sedan now contains about 100 megabytes of code that controls 50 to 70 computers inside the car, most of which communicate over a shared internal network.
The researchers say that their work shouldn’t yet be a cause for alarm, mainly because the exploits require access to the inside of a vehicle. But some of these systems can be accessed remotely, and the trend is to add even more wireless connectivity–for example, wireless automatic crash-response systems. The researchers say that other systems, such as satellite radios and remote-controlled door openers, could also become entry points.