Modern cars are an “open door” to hackers from hostile states or terrorists wanting to use them as a weapon, a leading cybersecurity expert has warned.
Car hacking should be considered a national security issue in the current geopolitical climate, as hackers can “kill millions” of people using hijacked cars, said Justin Cappos, a computer scientist at New York University, was quoted as saying to thetimes.co.uk on Monday.
“Many of our enemies are nuclear powers but any nation with the ability to launch a cyber-strike could kill millions of civilians by hacking cars. It’s daunting,” Cappos said.
Deaths are inevitable within five years if car manufacturers do not rush to solve cybersecurity issues and fix vulnerabilities in technology, said Cappos. According to him, it is currently possible to hack into the computer system of any car built since 2005 and many up to 17 years old are also vulnerable, and hackers could already be causing accidents without the authorities knowing.
“Any car built since 2005 could be controlled remotely by hackers with some cars built as long ago as the year 2000 also at risk. Hackers could already be causing accidents without the authorities realising it because no one was looking for the evidence,” Cappos said. “If there was a war or escalation with a country with strong cyber capability, I would be very afraid of hacking of vehicles.”
Once a vehicle’s internal computer network is hacked, the hackers would be able to tamper with key functions, including the braking system, power steering and locking mechanisms.
“Once in, hackers can send messages to the brakes and shut off the power steering and lock people in the car and do other things that you wouldn’t want to happen,” he said.
Ministers have been urged to make laws forcing manufacturers to issue software updates.