Car hacking isn’t exactly a huge issue right now. But as cars get more automated and are fitted up with more advanced systems, such a niche is inevitable in the near future. To highlight this, two hackers were able to control a standard car simply by using a laptop, demonstrating how such a hack can be pulled off very easily.
The research of Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek was funded by Pentagon’s research facility, DARPA. In order to gain access to a standard car’s controls, the duo connected their own laptop to the electronic control unit within the vehicle. This was done through the on-board diagnostic port that is easily accessible in many cars.
During the research, the cars that were ‘hacked’ include 2010 Ford Escape and Toyota Prius. The ‘hacking’ itself was accomplished using a software which overruled the driver’s controls and let the hacker take effective control of the car. In other words, once the vehicle has been successfully hacked, the hacker can move the steering left or right, apply brakes, tweak the fuel gauge and more.
This certainly shows that any potential car hacking incidents can prove quite dangerous, especially if the hacker is able to access the system attached to the car from a remote location. However, in all cases, a hacker will need to physically connect devices to the car’s system in order to be able to hack it. Therefore, the ‘warning’ by the Miller and Valasek is more trumped up than practical, at least at this point.
While explaining the significant of this research, Miller stated, “At the moment there are people who are in the know, there are nay-Sayers who don’t believe it’s important, and there are others saying it’s common knowledge but right now there’s not much data out there.”
In response to their findings, a Toyota spokesperson has very rightfully stated, “Altered control can only be made when the device is connected. After it is disconnected the car functions normally. We don’t consider that to be ‘hacking’ in the sense of creating unexpected behavior, because the device must be connected – ie the control system of the car physically altered.”