Security

Prius pwned: Hackers exploit steering & brakes on ‘smart’ car

Above: Toyota Prius

You’re driving in your car and suddenly the wheel turns. You know you didn’t do it, but suddenly you’re in oncoming traffic and scramble to pull the vehicle back into your lane.

Two security researchers plan to show off just how this could happen at the Def Con security conference in Las Vegas this week.

Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek decided to dive into the systems of a Toyota Prius and a Ford Escape to look at how the computers systems are connected on these new cars and what they control. They discovered that the computers that once ran minor operations have expanded to issue commands for braking, accelerating, steering, and many more critical elements of driving.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it seems these “Electrical Control Units” that control the car are all connected through a network that doesn’t demand much authentication, or proof of who you are. Theoretically, a hacker could get you to connect your car’s Bluetooth to a rogue device and be able to daisy-chain his way into your car’s system.

What he can do from there is scary stuff.

For example, using the parking assist feature, a Prius can take over the steering controls and use sensors help you maneuver into a tough spot. Miller and Valasek were able to use this system to take over the steering wheel and jerk the wheel themselves. They could also do things like display incorrect information on the dashboard and control the brakes.

Manufacturers are saying that you need to have physical access to the car in order to perform a lot of these hacks. But as technology advances and more wireless technologies enter the car, there’s sure to be a way to remotely get control.

Miller and Valasek say they published this information because they want more monitoring capabilities. At this point, there simply isn’t an easy way to monitor the car’s computer systems to figure out where something went wrong.

hat tip Ars Techinca