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Auto makers start slamming those stable doors as the hacking horse bolts

You can imagine there's more than a bit of running around going on at car manufacturers as they struggle to deal with the latest hacking revelations. Those about to unveil their latest models will be keen to demonstrate to potential customers that their vehicles are secure, but how can anyone be entirely sure? How can your showroom demonstrate confidently that someone couldn't take control of your shiny new car?

While the odd stable door has been slammed belatedly, you would like to think that additional locks are being fitted to the stables which still contain horses.

Jeep manufacturer Fiat Chrysler has recalled 1.4million vehicles so a software update can be applied. The recall is said to be 'voluntary', but you can imagine owners will be fairly keen to get the fix installed.

Meanwhile, a team from the UK's NCC Group claims to have hacked a car via its DAB radio. However, the hack is only said to work with a particular brand of radio in a particular vehicle.

While the Jeep hack required the IP address for that vehicle to be known, the DAB approach is more worrying because it could affect multiple vehicles. As Green Hills Software's Joel Fabbre told New Electronics recently: "There are so many cars out there. If you're a hacker, you look for scale. If a hacker could launch a coordinated attack, it could be massively damaging."

Weaknesses such as those demonstrated recently can be the result of adding elements to a system that wasn't designed from the start with security in mind. Would any of the team known five years ago – when design of the latest model probably started – that cars would be a target for hackers?

These events lend weight to Fabbre's belief that many engineers don't know where to start when it comes to security – and it appears they also don't know where to start when it comes to retrofitting security.

Author
Graham Pitcher

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