Is Hacking a Car Actually Easy?
The thought of someone being able to remotely “hack your car,” has definitely been becoming a more mainstream fear for many consumers. Our enhanced use of all things digital has made the entire world afraid of the "black-hat" hacker, lurking in the shadows of the dark web, waiting to strike. In reality, hacking a car is quite difficult, and according to Wired, took a few hackers over a year to figure out how to break into a car’s software to a level where they could fundamentally alter the vehicle’s function. Recently, Scientific American wrote a piece blasting Wired’s original article, and honestly, getting quite a few facts wrong. While you can go read Wired’s post about everything incorrect in that article, we’re more interested in why the publication got it wrong, which really boils down to the subject matter being quite difficult to interpret. RELATED: NHTSA Backs Self-Driving Cars, But How Will It Address Hacking? I spent the better part of two years working on my Master’s thesis on how electronic warfare and hacking could become the next weapon of mass destruction, and honestly, some of the concepts that are in this world still go over my head. In those two years I also learned that hacking isn’t exactly what you’d think it is and it’s much more complex than people realize. In the movies, hackers are portrayed as loaners, outsiders that have a single computer that’s better than anything the NSA or CIA can come up with. In reality, hackers work in collectives and most of the time need to use thousands of computers to break into a computer system, and it definitely doesn’t take them ten seconds to bust through a firewall. RELATED: The Tesla Model S Has Been Hacked, But Tesla’s Already Fighting Back
According to the original Wired article, the hackers involved in exploiting the software hole in the Jeep’s ECU had a little over a year to study the programming that controlled the car. A year, and that’s with a competent team behind it as well. Scientific American, leveled the accusation that the hackers altered the Jeep’s ECU to make it more hackable when that wasn’t the case at all. Although, they’d be forgiven to think that wasn’t an option.
Hacking involves exploiting holes throughout a piece of software, and if a hacker can change part of that code to make it easier to get in and get out, most of the time they will. In this case however, they didn’t. Unless trained to know what to look for, it would be easy for someone to misinterpret information as was done here.
RELATED: Surprise! Hacking A Car Isn’t Futuristic At All
Hacking a car isn’t an easy task. It’s a fairly difficult one, even for skilled hackers to accomplish, however, the possibility still lurks. Scientific American pretty much came out and charged Wired with playing off people’s fears, and capitalizing by using a potential scenario. This though isn’t quite right. Wired was able to show it is possible, and as such, made Jeep recall over 1.4 million vehicles because of the possibility of being hacked.
Car software security is a real concern, especially with more and more safety systems running off the cars electronic brain. With that in mind, more articles like the one from Wired need to come out showing those faults, because without them, we won't know when we are vulnerable.
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