No More Slim Jims and Coat Hangers…

Back in “the day” all you needed to break into a car was a coat hanger or a slim jim.  The locks were easy to hook, the door mechanisms were easy to access through the window, and the ignition was accessible through the steering column.  As auto companies began to implement anti-theft devices to help combat these techniques, auto thieves were forced to do a little homework.   Fast forward to 2017, and now, to break into a car, all they need is a laptop.

Cybersecurity is one of the hottest topics in the news today – from the hacking of various banks and department stores to the presidential election, it seems that our network systems are under constant attack from criminals.  Now that cars have moved into the online world, it’s no surprise that they have become the latest target.

As the number of “smart cars” being manufactured continues to grow, researchers continue to discover significant weaknesses in automobile security, and now auto manufacturers need to employ security experts.  Some analysts speculate that one of the reasons security holes are significant is that automobiles were never thought to need to be connected to the internet.  Now that more and more functionality is being built into the automobile, more exploits are being discovered.

Potential Implications

Hacking into a car has more than just theft implications.  As we depend more and more on our safety features to help us navigate the car, imagine the havoc a hacked car can wreak on an interstate.  Here are just a few of the systems which can be influenced by outside sources.

  • Dashboard controls  Imagine not being able to turn your heat on in the winter, cool your car in the summer, or not being able to see your controls at night.  All these systems are controlled by a computer chip.
  • Transmission Companies like On-Star already have capabilities to remotely kill an engine, so hacking this system is not as unreasonable as one might expect.
  • Braking Cars already have automatic braking capabilities, and guess what?  They’re controlled by a computer which can be remotely accessed.

There are scores of other systems in our automobile which could fall under attack by a less than ethical computer nerd with a soft spot in their heart for the auto industry. In fact, this wireless car-jacking has been tested by industry professionals and the results sparked legislation to require new security measures in our cars.

The Solution

Fortunately, car manufacturers continue to do their own research to discover these vulnerabilities, but it looks like in the future these cars will now require software updates as well as oil changes.  Just like our phones and computers, our cars will need to be updated regularly.  At 5 Points, we’re constantly looking forward to the latest trends in the automotive industry and adapting.  If you have any questions about your car, feel free to give us a call or send us an email here.