Can you car be hacked? If it's connected to the Internet it can

We’ve probably all seen TV shows where a plot point revolves around someone taking control of a person’s car. It may seem far fetched and something only done in Hollywood but there have been many cases in recent months of this happening. If you think about it though, it really is not that crazy. A car after all is controlled by a computer and most newer models are connected to the world via the Internet. It seems that they are just inviting a criminal.

Your car is a part of what is known as the Internet of Things. This can include more things like a Smart TV, a household appliance or even your thermostat on the wall. Since it is connected to the Internet it is vulnerable just the same way the computer that you are reading this on is vulnerable. A criminal can do more than just take control of the car and hold you for ransom. They can also find out personal information about you from your GPS unit or any passwords that are used with devices that interface with your car.

Is your car connected to the Internet? Quite possibly. Any car with an entertainment system that includes satellite radio (whether it is activated or not) is connected. Anything can be done, whether it is to control the environment inside the car, to control the entertainment system, the windshield wipers, manipulate the displays or even stop the car. Of course this is not an intended use of the system and patches are being developed to counter many of these vulnerabilities but who knows how many vulnerabilities exist. After all, it is a computer and any computer can be hacked.

Now of course there are some folks out there that don’t need to worry about this. If you drive a classic car you can breathe a sigh of relief right now, but then you knew that. Your car has value to you because you love to drive it as well and that is another concern. Driverless cars are coming. Anyone who followed this year’s Consumer Electronics Show can tell you that and these cars may be closer to reality than we think. This presents a new challenge since it is guaranteed that the hardware and software will have bugs that will need to be ironed out and these bugs can be exploited. Could a criminal commandeer a car and crash it into something or someone? They could take control and cause the car to accelerate into a tractor-trailer on the highway or to release the brakes and tumble down a slope.

Of course this mode of attack is nothing new and was in the news all through 2017 and being able to commandeer a car could also give law enforcement another tool that could stop crimes or terrorist attacks before they start. It’s also not easy to hack a car. Security is at the top of the list for companies that are designing the chips and hardware that goes into a car, whether it has a driver or does not.

Driverless cars especially produce a constant stream of information and there is a lot of concern how much of that would be shared. This itself is nothing new and has been an issue at the forefront with smartphones, personal assistant devices like Alexa and even childrens toys. It is even common knowledge that the CIA can spy on Smart TV owners. Some people choose to ignore this, others do not understand it which leads to a fear of the unknown and that is not helped by reports from the media. Education about a product will eventually win out.

The Internet of Things has also raised a number of questions about people’s information. Any device connected can be manipulated and can be used to hurt someone. A medical device that is used in surgery could be controlled to kill someone the same was a car could be taken over and deliberately crashed. What is the answer to this? For many the answer is for the government to step in and introduce regulations and oversights. In many cases they have remained hands-off and with some things that is a good thing but if a criminal can take control of your car from anywhere in the world we are entering a very dangerous situation.

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