Auto Express - - Inside Story -

CAR hack­ing – as well as theft – re­mains a con­cern for many mo­torists, with so many func­tions and con­trols in a mod­ern ve­hi­cle op­er­ated elec­tron­i­cally. Last year, sev­eral sci­en­tists demon­strated a re­mote hack on a mov­ing Jeep Chero­kee to steer it off the road. It’s wor­ry­ing, but thank­fully help is at hand.

Tech gi­ant Har­man is de­vel­op­ing pro­tec­tion sys­tems to pre­vent your car from be­ing hacked, and we met its cy­ber se­cu­rity team to see how it works. Us­ing soft­ware on an ipad hooked up to a car parked out­side (above), we were able to un­lock the doors, turn the wipers on, make the speedome­ter ac­cel­er­ate wildly and ac­ti­vate the re­vers­ing cam­eras with a sim­ple click of a but­ton.

Sec­onds later, Har­man’s TCU Shield (to pro­tect telem­at­ics and in­fo­tain­ment) and ECU Shield (for in­ter­nal work­ings like speed) were ac­ti­vated, mak­ing the car im­pen­e­tra­ble to our at­tacks.

Saar Dick­man, Har­man’s vice pres­i­dent of automotive cy­ber se­cu­rity, said the sys­tem has been un­der­go­ing test­ing with sev­eral car mak­ers for the past two years, and is ready to be fit­ted to fu­ture mod­els. Cru­cially, it can eas­ily be retro-fit­ted with­out the need to re­design the ve­hi­cle, with all data stored on board. Dick­man ex­plained: “It’s not anti-virus, it’s in­va­sion de­tec­tion.”

The sys­tem learns what is al­lowed on a ve­hi­cle and anal­y­ses any­thing that’s un­ex­pected be­fore de­cid­ing to al­low it or not. It can tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween se­cu­rity in­tru­sion and ser­vic­ing de­fect.

Dick­man added: “When we de­tect any­thing, we want to pro­vide the man­u­fac­turer with the se­cu­rity sta­tus of the ve­hi­cle so it can take ac­tion, which could be a soft­ware up­date or a ve­hi­cle re­call. Then we know the se­cu­rity sta­tus of the com­po­nents and what parts can be com­pro­mised.

“You can’t guar­an­tee 100 per cent pro­tec­tion, but it crosses any safety and se­cu­rity stands that the in­dus­try has put to­gether.”

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