I'll Take a Double Mocha Latte and a Virus for My Car, To Go
Sorry sir, but I can’t make it to work today. My car has a virus.
The modern vehicle comes equipped with a plethora of embedded systems. They control everything: engine, brakes, seat belts, heating and cooling, radio, locks, instrument panel, and lights. Automobiles now have an estimated 70 electronic control units (ECUs) controlling various systems. In order to improve efficiency and operation many of these units are networked.
Professors Stefan Savage and Tadayoshi Kohno from the Center for Automotive Embedded Systems Security will be presenting their research at the IEEE symposium on Security and Privacy on May 19th.
Savage and Tadayoshi have tested the hackability of ECUs, and found them lacking in security. They accessed the ECUs through the communications ports used by mechanics to perform diagnostics. They were able to implant commands that literally took over the car. They could shut off the car, mess with the brakes, the door locks, and the instrument panel.
No big deal right? Other than a mechanic and the research team, no one can access those ports, at least until cars go wireless. Except this year Ford Motor Company is releasing a wireless model.
Since 1997, Ford SYNC, the in-car infotainmet system, has been working with EB (Elektrobit), a provider of embedded software solutions, to create phone applications to take and input data into the car. Over two million cars currently have the SYNC system.
In April, Ford announced that the 2011 Fiesta model coming out this summer would have the SYNC-enabled system, MyFord Touch. It will be able to communicate with BlackBerry and Android smart phones. Users will be able to voice activate phone-related applications. SYNC will work with Pandora, Stitcher, and OpenBreak.Continued on the next page