"University researchers have taken a close look at the computer systems
used to run today's cars and discovered new ways to hack into them,
sometimes with frightening results.
"In a paper set to be presented at a security conference in Oakland,
California, next week, the security researchers say that by connecting to a
standard diagnostic computer port included in late-model cars, they were
able to do some nasty things, such as turning off the brakes, changing the
speedometer reading, blasting hot air or music on the radio, and locking
passengers in the car....
"In a late 2009 demonstration at a decommissioned airfield in Blaine
Washington, they hacked into a test car's electronic braking system and
prevented a test driver from braking a moving car -- no matter how hard he
pressed on the brakes. In other tests, they were able to kill the engine,
falsify the speedometer reading, and automatically lock the car's brakes
unevenly, a maneuver that could destabilize the car traveling high speeds.
They ran their test by plugging a laptop into the car's diagnostic system
and then controlling that computer wirelessly, from a laptop in a vehicle
riding next to the car....
"Step-by-step, they figured out how to take over computer-controlled car
systems: the radio, instrument panel, engine, brakes, heating and air
conditioning, and even the body controller system, used to pop the trunk,
open windows, lock doors and toot the horn....
"In one attack that the researchers call "Self-destruct" they launch a 60
second countdown on the driver's dashboard that's accompanied by a clicking
noise, and then finally warning honks in the final seconds. As the time
hits zero, the car's engine is killed and the doors are locked. This attack
takes less than 200 lines of code -- most of it devoted to keeping time
during the countdown...."