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Friday, October 14, 2011

What Computer Hackers Can Do To Your Car



There’s a new target for hackers — cars and trucks. And there’s not a lot drivers can do about it yet.

Most vehicles have computerized systems for everything from tire pressure monitors to hands-free phone capabilities.

Bloomberg News reporter Craig Trudell says that the computers are vulnerable to hackers, who can do a lot of damage, for example they can:

  • Disable the brakes or engine independent of the driver
  • Shut off the air conditioning
  • Use a method called “fuzzing” to play malicious messages over the system that diagnoses problems with your car
  • Unlock a car remotely and start the engine

Trudell says that because many of the computer systems in cars are there because of legal mandates “You really don’t have a choice. Your on-board [computerized] diagnostic system is required.”

But the auto industry and federal government are looking into how to prevent hacking. “The good news is that the Department of Transportation is soliciting information on ways to correct this and to protect drivers,” Trudell said.


  • Craig Trudell, Bloomberg News reporter

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Diana Potter

    I can’t believe KPBS and your show aired this story! The man interviewed said there are as yet NO cases of this problem — yet you publicized it, openhandedly GIVING hackers the idea. AND you include a link to Twitter — hey, let’s tell the world about this cool new hacking idea! This is  irresponsible journalism, a surprise from your group, whom I definitely like and admire for the usual quality of your programming. PLEASE do the responsible thing and remove this story from the air and this site and anywhere else it may appear that you can control. Diana P.

    • Steveninri

      Do you honestly believe putting your head in the sand will help?

  • Diana Potter

    Now I can’t believe you took my earlier comment off this queue! Disappointing for NPR – well, maybe you’ll at least take action as recommended, even if you can’t take criticism. D. Potter

  • Jasoturner

    Gee, and up till now, if I saw a guy with a laptop running a cable to my engine, I’d have thought nothing about it.  This  is pretty good example of a “news” report in dire need of a substantive story to back it up. 

    • Stefan Savage

      Note that a number of the vulnerabilities in the research upon which this story is based (see: autosec.org) do not require any physical access to the vehicle.

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