Car hack­ing in the spot­light

Se­cu­rity ex­perts have been warn­ing that con­nected cars are vul­ner­a­ble. Michael Kan re­ports

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

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.

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