Imagine tooling down the road in your car when, suddenly, a nefarious Dr. Strangelove is controlling the brakes, the engine, and the locks. It's not science fiction. Teams of researchers have already hacked into cars' internal computers to control various systems in order to reveal vehicles' vulnerabilities. Teams from Rutgers and the University of South Carolina intercepted internal computer signals concerning tire pressure to send false pressure readings and eventually wreck the computers. The wireless hacking could be accomplished up to 120 feet away, including from inside cars in traffic.
In an earlier experiment, a "CarShark" program connected to a vehicle's computer could "adversarially control a wide range of automotive functions and completely ignore driver input—including disabling the brakes, selectively braking individual wheels on demand, stopping the engine," researchers noted. Hacker vulnerabilities increase as manufacturers boost wireless technology in their cars. "These trends suggest a wide range of vectors will be available by which an attacker might compromise a component," noted one of the studies. "Our goal is to raise awareness for consumers before this becomes an actual risk," computer engineering professor Marco Gruteser tells the Christian Science Monitor. "Hopefully, they will then request from car companies more secure devices."