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The other evening I wrote a short piece about a CBS story on Sunday night’s edition of 60 Minutes.  It briefly recounted the efforts of one Dan Kaufman and DARPA to make sense of a variety of modern, convenience-based technology.  My take centered on the vulnerability of modern automobiles to remote computer hacking.

On Monday U.S. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts released a report on the subject: Tracking and Hacking.

New technologies in cars have enabled valuable
features that have the potential to improve driver
safety and vehicle performance. Along with these
benefits, vehicles are becoming more connected
through electronic systems like navigation, infotainment,
and safety monitoring tools.

The proliferation of these technologies raises
concerns about the ability of hackers to gain access
and control to the essential functions and features
of those cars and for others to utilize information on
drivers’ habits for commercial purposes without the
drivers’ knowledge or consent.

             – Markey Report, Executive Summary.

On 60 Minutes, DARPA Dan and an associate demonstrated the ease with which a hacker can access a car’s computer and literally take complete control from the driver. Sen. Markey found that nearly 100% of new cars are vulnerable to such attacks. Further, in addition to being without any meaningful protection from hacking, most automakers cannot even tell if or when a hacking incident occurred.

While these manufactures use their various systems to collect driver information, only two have the ability to detect hacking.  None seems to have the ability to defeat it.

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal (I think) last year about the exponential increase in car-based infotainment systems.  The Journal pointed out that by throwing in ever “convenience” except a kitchen sink – navigation, bluetooth, Pandora, Facebook, etc., automakers are confusing the motoring public.  They also leave the public open to information intercept or worse.

Most car-to-world communications are open and unsecured.  Anyone with the right equipment and know-how can access, record, or use said communication for whatever purpose.

CBS pointed out that, to date, there have been no proven cases of electronic hijacking of an automobile.  The emphasis should have been placed on proven cases.  When I ran my article a reader noted that suspicion abounds that the death of Rolling Stone editor Michael Hastings could have been caused by remote hacking of his Mercedes.  Hastings died just after exposing ex-POW Bowe Bergdahl’s “anti-American” sentiments.  If this theory is correct, it would make sense.

Such an expose could conceivably anger certain people.  Those people might want to silence the offending journalist.  With the right technology they could.  Unfortunately, according to Markey, a murder like this would be nearly impossible to detect let alone prove.


(Death by hacking? Google.)

Having the technological prowess of a sea slug, I profess no concise opinion nor answers to these matters. I welcome the input of the more informed.  Whatcha think?