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January 29, 2014

Self-driving cars highly vulnerable to cyber attacks

Diagnostics port provides easy access for hackers.

By CBR Staff Writer

Self-driving cars would turn out to be tempting targets for hackers after they are rolled out, as they are reportedly highly vulnerable to hacking attacks, a top security executive warns.

According to Verizon’s enterprise subsidiary global security solutions vice president Eddie Schwartz, there would be an exponential rise in number of targets during the first half of 21st century, while the existing cyber-security industry is still 40 years from maturity.

"All of the major automobile manufacturers are working on self-driving cars," Schwartz told the Guardian.

"For cars to be able to self-drive, they have to be able to negotiate with each other," he added.

"You can’t negotiate something like that without having some security principles behind it.

"So cars have to do basic things that we do with each other, like recognise each other – authentication.

Schwartz added there are a several primary security issues in applications developed by car industry intended for machine-to-machine communications.

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"OK, I authenticate to you, that means there has to be an underlying artefact, a certificate or something like it that says ‘you’re an authorised car, and I’m an authorised car, therefore we can exchange this information really fast," Schwartz continued.

However, researchers, in August 2013, used self-driving cars, including Ford SUV and Toyota Prius, to demonstrate their vulnerability against cyber attacks and were able to put on the brakes, jerk the steering wheel, or accelerate the car via a laptop by plugging into the diagnostics port.

Another team of researchers were also able to pierce similar systems via bluetooth, mobile data and in addition to a malicious audio file burned onto a CD played in the vehicle’s media player.

"These are going to be embedded solutions," Schwartz added.

"It’s going to be wireless communications or NFC.

"These are machine-to-machine communications, and for critical care, they are going to have telemetry going on 24/7.

"There’s an underlying security and privacy issue: imagine ransom-ware in that world."

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