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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Researchers Show How a Car’s Electronics Can Be Taken Over Remotely

By JOHN MARKOFF


With a modest amount of expertise, computer hackers could gain remote access to someone’s car — just as they do to people’s personal computers — and take over the vehicle’s basic functions, including control of its engine, according to a report by computer scientists from the University of California, San Diego and the University of Washington.
Although no such takeovers have been reported in the real world, the scientists were able to do exactly this in an experiment conducted on a car they bought for the purpose of trying to hack it. Their report, delivered last Friday to the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board, described how such unauthorized intrusions could theoretically take place.
Because many of today’s cars contain cellular connections and Bluetooth wireless technology, it is possible for a hacker, working from a remote location, to take control of various features — like the car locks and brakes — as well as to track the vehicle’s location, eavesdrop on its cabin and steal vehicle data, the researchers said. They described a range of potential compromises of car security and safety.
“This report explores how hard it is to compromise a car’s computers without having any direct physical access to the car,” said Stefan Savage of the University of California, San Diego, who is one of the leaders of the research effort.

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