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This post is from the Arxan blog and has not been updated since the original publish date.

Last Updated Oct 08, 2015 — Application Security expert

Under the Hood of a Connected Car Hack

Application Security

A few months ago, a now-famous experiment took place on I-64 near St. Louis. Andy Greenberg, a reporter for Wired, had his car hacked by two computer security experts – on purpose. Despite being in the know, upon losing control of his vehicle to the hackers, the experience freaked Greenberg out enough that he begged them to stop. More and more cars these days have integrated computer systems – with some vehicles containing up to 100 microprocessors or more!

These run everything from dashboard “infotainment” systems to critical systems that control the car’s transmission, engine, and exhaust systems. Given this high level of computerization in cars, trucks, and SUVs, there’s a growing concern about the ability to hack cars and take over critical systems. With cars becoming more connected internally and externally – through wi-fi, satellites, cell signals, and even the relatively new Intelligent Transportation Systems standard – the number of ways for people to hack into a vehicle and wrest control away from the driver is greater than ever.

At Arxan, we’re interested in this issue because our mission is to help make the world’s applications universally secure and trusted, like those found in cars through obfuscation and other code protection techniques. However, many people aren’t even aware that it’s possible to hack cars in this way, so we’re trying to help spread the word about the most common technologies and techniques involved, as well as some of the ways it can be prevented. We’ve put together the infographic below to help spread the word. Please share with your family, friends, followers, and others who might be concerned about driver and vehicle safety related to connected cars.

Technical Terminology

For those who aren’t familiar with the technologies associated with connected cars, we also created the handy reference below:

  • 802.11p (WAVE/DSRC) – This is a new wireless standard that enables Intelligent Transportation Systems to allow cars to communicate with other cars as well as infrastructure systems, such as traffic signals or parking meters.
  • Bluetooth – A short-range wireless technology, bluetooth can be used to connect phones, audio devices, GPS, and more.
  • Cellular – Cellular data services aren’t just for phones: They are also used in car “infotainment” systems, such as Uconnect, and safety and location systems like OnStar.
  • Near-Field Communications (NFC) – Most popular for things like mobile payments (e.g., Apple Pay), NFC can trigger a variety of vehicle actions, from ignition to climate control and much more.
  • USB - Short for Universal Serial Bus, USB is an industry standard for connecting peripheral devices to computers and other electronic devices. W
  • i-Fi – Wi-Fi in cars uses high-speed 4G LTE connections to allow a wide range of device connections, such as streaming videos or general internet connectivity. Download the Infographic to

Authored by: Patrick Kehoe, CMO, Arxan

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