Forget about the good old days when unshaven carjackers dressed in bad plaid jackets, carried sawed-off shotguns and rode badass Choppers. The next generation of carjacking deviants will likely tote tricked-out portable rigs along with thermoses full of freshly brewed Seattle roast.
As Justin Hyde of Jalopnik succinctly put it, “the dawn of the carhacker approaches.”
And that dawn may arrive sooner rather than later.
Indeed, uber-geek teams from the University of South Carolina and Rutgers recently proved they could hack into a car’s warning systems via wireless sensors, relay phantom tire pressure messages at high speeds and even fry an onboard computer.
“Eavesdropping is easily possible at a distance of roughly 40m from a passing vehicle. Further, reverse-engineering of the underlying protocols revealed static 32 bit identifiers and that messages can be easily triggered remotely, which raises privacy concerns as vehicles can be tracked through these identifiers,” the researchers explained in symposium description for the upcoming Usenix Security conference.
“In addition, current protocols do not employ authentication and vehicle implementations do not perform basic input validation, thereby allowing for remote spoofing of sensor messages…We validated this [hyptothesis] by triggering tire pressure warning messages in a moving car from a customized software radio attack platform located in a nearby vehicle.”
The researchers added that wireless networks were being integrated into most modern automobiles, without a full understanding of the security implications, as “transmissions propagate beyond the confines of a car’s body.”
As such, the researchers recommended the coding of “basic software” rules to prevent rogue carjackings.
But as Hyde notes, many Americans already have a “strong defense of ignorance” against such occurences.
“Nearly half apparently don’t understand what a tire pressure warning light looks like, and a third don’t even know such systems exist,” he added.