ISSC361 FinalProject

Topics: Computer security, Automobile, Computer Pages: 6 (1124 words) Published: November 30, 2014


Automobile Computers and their Vulnerabilities

Automobile Computers and their Vulnerabilities
Manufacturers are incorporating more and more computers into automobiles. This causes a new type of threat to today’s society. Challenges come to protecting these systems and the people that are driving the vehicles. Challenges with Computers

Computers are a part of everyone’s daily lives and are even a part of everyday use items. Automobiles today are primarily made up of computer systems. Each mechanical device that is in a vehicle today is controlled by a computer system, whether it is entirely controlled or just monitored by a computer system, but it relies on a computer to correctly function. This now causes an issue with the security of today’s vehicles.

With each device in a vehicle using a computer there are many ways for a hacker to gain access to the vital components of the vehicle. It is estimated that a modern luxury car comprises of more than seventy Electronic Control Units (ECUs) in each vehicle today. Of these seventy different ECUs they are all connected via a network within the vehicle. This network is known as the CAN or Controller Area Network. “This interconnection permits complex safety and convenience features such as pre-tensioning of seat-belts when a crash is predicted and automatically varying radio volume as a function of speed.” (Checkoway, et al, 2011)

How does this create a security vulnerability is probably a question that comes to mind. These complex networks of interconnected computers are easily accessed through the diagnostics port of a vehicle. With the right software and allowed time to a vehicle any one can hack a vehicle. By installing a malicious code into the vehicle’s computer through the diagnostics port hackers can take control of the vehicle’s brake system, engine control, and the locking system of the automobile. Another access method to the computer systems of the vehicle is through the entertainment centers. A hacker can program a multi-media disc with malicious code and when it is inserted into the player it installs the program giving the hacker access to the computers of the vehicle. Manufacture’s Securing the Computers

Securing the computers in today’s vehicles seems to be an item that is not of priority to the manufactures. In a letter to twenty different manufactures, sent by Senator Markey, addressing the many issues of security in vehicles today it seems that there are still many hurdles to climb in securing the computers of today’s cars. Senator Markey states in his letter “there are more avenues through which a hacker could introduce malicious code,” all because of the number of wireless devices that are being incorporated in the vehicle today. (2013)

Computers in a vehicle have been setup to be reprogrammed by service technicians to either fix an issue with the vehicle or to run a diagnostic check on what is wrong with a specific function of the vehicle. With these aspects and the number of ECUs in a vehicle it is unlikely that all ECUs are directly connected to each other. In order for most of the diagnostic tools to work properly they access each individual ECU to access the area that is subjected to the diagnostic tools. So one way of protecting the vehicle’s computer systems from hackers manipulating the computers of a vehicle, is to protect the ECUs means of communications between the rest of the computers. If a reprogramming attempt is not made correctly it will take the rest of the computer systems offline and the computer systems will no longer work properly. Types of Attacks Already Completed

With the vast amount of technology today, there have been a few documented hacks completed on vehicles. One group of people that have successfully hacked a vehicle has been given funds from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in the amount of $80,000 to try and root out the possibility of hacking a...
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