Car hacking in the spotlight
Security experts have been warning that connected cars are vulnerable. Michael Kan reports
Researchers showed that by reverse-engineering the car’s firmware, and eavesdropping on signals sent from a car owner’s key fob, they could remotely open and lock the doors
As cars become more computerised, they are also facing a greater risk of being hacked. That’s why Volkswagen is founding a new cybersecurity company devoted to protecting next-generation vehicles.
The German carmaker recently announced that it would partner with a former Israeli intelligence agency director to jointly establish a new company, called Cymotive Technologies.
It’s unclear how much Volkswagen is investing in the new firm, but security experts have been warning that internetconnected cars and self-driving vehicles could one day be a major target for hackers.
Even older cars from Volkswagen are vulnerable. In August, researchers revealed that millions of vehicles from the carmaker could be broken into by exploiting the remote control key systems. In a paper, the researchers showed that by reverse-engineering the car’s firmware, and then eavesdropping on signals sent from a car owner’s key fob to the vehicle, they could remotely open and lock the doors.
Volkswagen would need to roll out a costly firmware update to fix the problem, the researchers added. At the time, the company simply said it was continually improving its cars security.
Other security experts have been warning that newer cars, with network connectivity, also contain security holes. Last year, two researchers demonstrated they could remotely hack a 2015 Jeep Cherokee and kill the engine or cut the brakes. Fiat Chrysler later issued a safety recall and sent out USB drives loaded with the software fix to affected cars.
Volkswagen called its own attempt to bolster its cybersecurity a “long-term investment”. Three Israeli security experts, including Yuval Diskin, a former chief with the country’s internal security service Shin Bet, will lead the new company. Diskin will serve as the company’s chairman. “Together with Volkswagen we are building a top-notch team of cyber security experts,” he said.