Modern technology has its benefits, but that can sometimes open a window for nefarious individuals to exploit. CAN bus hacks aren't anything new, but in some areas of the world, it seems thieves are taking some extraordinary measures to gain access to wiring, including cutting holes in the body.
This was highlighted recently with a post on LinkedIn from Dr. Ken German. Sharing an image of a jagged gash in sheet metal, Dr. German described this as an attempt to access the vehicle's controller area network bus – CAN bus for short. Basically, this is a simple two-wire network that connects to the various computer systems in a vehicle. If a hacker can access those wires directly, they can effectively hack into all the systems including alarms and immobilizers, not to mention door locks and modern ignition systems.
Why not just break a window to get inside? We've certainly seen more than a few thieves take that route, but that runs the risk of setting off a very noisy alarm and if an immobilizer is active, the car won't go anywhere without some electronic intervention. Granted, cutting a hole through metal isn't exactly quiet, but with aluminum skin and composites being used more frequently, it's not always a noisy venture. Lest we forget, catalytic converters are being cut from vehicles with alarming frequency.
Dr. German's LinkedIn post was shared by Ken Tindell, chief technical officer at Canis Automotive Labs. He offered additional context for the current situation regarding CAN BUS hacks, stating that modest adjustments to computer code could prevent hackers from gaining access. He also states many modern vehicles entering production already have such updates in place, but there's a window of about 10 years where the vulnerability exists with cars already on the road.
If a well-informed thief knows where to access the CAN bus, the crime can go down in minutes.