Too Much Tech: Crooks Are Taking Control of Cars by Hacking Their Headlights

Thief in a balaclava stealing woman's bag from car - stock photo
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Manufacturers are reportedly scrambling to secure communication systems in their vehicles after thieves discovered new methods to bypass advanced security systems. In some cases, crooks are taking control of vehicles by hacking their headlights.

Hot Hardware reports that a new threat has emerged as car companies work to improve security measures in response to hackers exploiting remote keyless systems and hotwiring methods shared on social media. Modern vehicles’ central nervous system, the Controller Area Network (CAN) bus, is now the target of sophisticated thieves looking to easily bypass sophisticated security measures and steal cars.

In a blog post, Dr. Ken Tindell, CTO of Canis Automotive Labs, explained how most cars have “sophisticated car security systems, including an engine immobilizer,” which must be bypassed to steal the vehicle. Through the CAN bus, thieves have discovered a way to hack into the car’s communications and send false messages that unlock the doors and engine immobilizer.

The case of Ian Tabor, whose car was repeatedly tampered with before being stolen, brought attention to the CAN bus system’s weakness. Thieves apparently used the headlight wiring to access the car’s CAN bus, which they then used to send a series of false messages to the Electronic Control Units (ECUs) in order to take over the vehicle.

Although the CAN bus is not a new technology, these incidents have revealed the flaws in the system, according to Dr. Tindell. “Communications over the CAN bus are not very secure,” he states, raising concerns about the widespread use of CAN bus technology in cars, planes, boats, tractors, and more.

Automakers are currently securing CAN bus communications, but it is still unclear how criminals will modify their strategies in response to these security upgrades. The ongoing conflict between automakers and thieves will undoubtedly continue as technology develops, leaving car owners to speculate about the security of their vehicles.

Read more at Hot Hardware here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan


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