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Are Connected Cars Truly Hackable?

Are Connected Cars Truly Hackable?

Auto titans and tech giants are meeting in Metro Detroit this week to discuss how connected cars will shape the future of the industry.

As with any device that functions like a computer and connects to the Internet, automobiles have come under scrutiny because consumers fear they could be hacked.

Volkswagen AG (ADR) (OTC: VLKAY), Arynga, Green Hills Software, WirelessCar and Gemalto hosted a panel at TU-Automotive Detroit to address this very issue.

"I think the risk is getting bigger and bigger," Benedikt Brecht, senior IT connected vehicle engineer for Volkswagen, told attendees at TU-Automotive. "The more connected the car gets, the bigger the risk will be."

Internet access may be important, but Brecht said it could allow hackers to attack from anywhere in the world.

"If you get into the system you could actually do damage to all of the cars at the same time," he said. Earlier this year someone used a jamming device to prevent consumers from locking or unlocking their car doors.

"For more than 30 minutes they were helpless," said Christina Rux, product manager for WirelessCar.

Related Link: How Apple Could Help Tesla By Building A Car

A Cause For Concern

Joe Fabbre, director of platform solutions for Green Hills Software, said that he agrees with his concerned colleagues.

"I think the problem is getting bigger," said Fabbre. "There's more computing power now than ever and there are some things that are interesting for hackers. Personal info is certainly one of them."

That's not the only issue, however.

"Just using the computing power for whatever intent, whether it's malicious to crash the car or just use it as available resources for computing, I think that a lot of the research that's happened to date and the news stories are interesting attacks," Fabbre added. He said that a lot of people bring up physical access to the car, claiming that if hackers didn't have physical access, they wouldn't be able to do much damage.

"But the remote unlocking, the paper came out in February (the BMW attack), showed us something very interesting," Fabbre continued, referring to this report. "People do have to develop the hack and then they can remotely exploit these computers."

Fabbre believes it is "very reasonable" to think that a hacker may have physical access to a car while they're researching or developing the hack.

"I think there's lots more opportunities to increase the level of security in the automobile," he concluded. "I think that's why all of us are here. We all want to see that happen. But I agree, the risk continues to grow."

Disclosure: At the time of this writing, Louis Bedigian had no position in the equities mentioned in this report.


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