Two security experts in the United States recently demonstrated taking control of two vehicles, whilst somebody else was driving them, using only a laptop. The research will be revealed officially at a security conference in Las Vegas in August, Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller said that they wanted to raise awareness about security issues, around the increase in computer dominated control of a vehicle.
Some people believe that the technology is not important
At the minute there are people who know about the particular technology, there are people who believe that the technology is not important and there are others saying that it is common knowledge, though right now there is not much data out there.
The work, which has been funded by the Pentagon’s research facility Darpa, has received a mixed reaction from car manufacturers.
The two researchers used cables to connect the vehicle’s electronic control units to the devices via the on board diagnostics port, which is also used by mechanics to find faults in vehicles, inside a Toyota Prius and a Ford Escape.
Electronic control units are actually contained inside most modern vehicles, they are part of a computer network that controls most aspects of the functionality of a vehicle, including braking, acceleration, monitor displays, steering and the horn.
The researchers of the technology wrote software which sent instructions to the network computer
The researchers were able to write software which sent instructions to the network computer of the car and over wrote the commands form the actual drivers of the vehicles.
The pair filmed themselves in the back of one of the cars steering it right and left, activating the brakes and showing the fuel gauge to drop to 0, all while the vehicle was in motion and under the drivers control.
The cable connected the electronic control units to the devices. Because the hardware had to be connected inside the car physically, it wasn’t considered as hacking. Altered control can actually only be made when the device is connected, after the device has been disconnected the car will function as normal. It is not considered hacking in the sense of creating unexpected behaviour for the vehicle, because the device must be connected, the control system of the car must be physically altered. The presence of a device such as a laptop that was connected to the on board diagnostics would be apparent.