Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

5/16/2010
09:39 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
50%
50%

Automobiles Growing Vulnerable To Hacks

Carmakers are rolling automobiles off the assembly line with plenty of fancy new high-tech features. Unfortunately, security is -- once again -- treated as an afterthought.

Carmakers are rolling automobiles off the assembly line with plenty of fancy new high-tech features. Unfortunately, security is -- once again -- treated as an afterthought.

Modern automobiles are no longer mere mechanical devices; they are pervasively monitored and controlled by dozens of digital computers coordinated via internal vehicular networks. While this transformation has driven major advancements in efficiency and safety, it has also introduced a range of new potential risks.

So starts the research report, Experimental Security Analysis of a Modern Automobile, published by a team of IT security researchers from the University of California, San Diego and the University of Washington.

Anyone who is interested in the security of information systems might want to give this paper a read. Although those who have been following the security of IT infrastructure and PCs during the past fifteen years may be struck with an eerie feeling of Déjà Vu.

Just as PCs became increasingly networked in the 1990s, and operating systems were crammed with new features, security risks also increased. And when PCs and LANs were connected to the Internet: those risks went parabolic. There wasn't much attention paid to how adversaries - virus writers, curiosity seeking hackers, and outright criminals would use systems to snoop, disrupt, and destroy.

It seems carmakers may be repeating the mistakes of the IT industry, according to the report:

The attack surface for modern automobiles is growing swiftly as more sophisticated services and communications features are incorporated intovehicles. In the United States, the federally-mandated On-Board Diagnostics (OBD-II) port, under the dash in virtuallyall modern vehicles, provides direct and standard access to internal automotive networks. User-upgradable subsystems such as audio players are routinely attached to these same internal networks, as are a variety of shortrange wireless devices (Bluetooth, wireless tire pressure sensors, etc.). Telematics systems, exemplified by General Motors' (GM's) OnStar, provide value-added features such as automatic crash response, remote diagnostics, and stolen vehicle recovery over a long-range wireless link. To do so, these telematics systems integrate internal automotive subsystems with a remote command center via a wide area cellular connection. Some have taken this concept even further-proposing a "car as a platform" model for third-party development.

The researchers found that attackers can grab control of a range of functions of the car, and override driver input, such as disabling breaks and even stopping the engine. Here's what one of the researchers had to say to The New York Times regarding their research:

"We noticed the extent to which automobiles were becoming computerized," said Stefan Savage, a computer scientist at U.C.S.D. who was a member of one of two groups that have been studying the electronic control units of two different cars to look for network vulnerabilities that could be exploited by a potential attacker. "We found ourselves thinking we should try to get in front of this before it suddenly becomes an issue."

Many of the vulnerabilities of automotive systems that make attacks possible will sound familiar to IT security professionals such: poor authentication, weak access control, and poor challenge-response mechanisms to protect against unauthorized system tampering.

Hopefully it's not too late for car manufacturers to (at least) bring the same level of engineering scrutiny to software aspects of their products as they do the mechanical. Because it's one thing to tolerate shoddy software engineering (now, that's an oxymoron isn't it) within PC and enterprise applications: it's a number of magnitudes greater to have to worry about attackers gaining control of any aspect of your vehicle while cruising down the highway.

For my security and technology observations throughout the day consider following me on Twitter.

 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 7/14/2020
Omdia Research Launches Page on Dark Reading
Tim Wilson, Editor in Chief, Dark Reading 7/9/2020
Russian Cyber Gang 'Cosmic Lynx' Focuses on Email Fraud
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  7/7/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
This report describes some of the latest attacks and threats emanating from the Internet, as well as advice and tips on how your organization can mitigate those threats before they affect your business. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-6287
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-14
SAP NetWeaver AS JAVA (LM Configuration Wizard), versions - 7.30, 7.31, 7.40, 7.50, does not perform an authentication check which allows an attacker without prior authentication to execute configuration tasks to perform critical actions against the SAP Java system, including the ability to create a...
CVE-2020-6289
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-14
SAP Disclosure Management, version 10.1, had insufficient protection against Cross-Site Request Forgery, which could be used to trick user in to browsing malicious site.
CVE-2020-6290
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-14
SAP Disclosure Management, version 10.1, is vulnerable to Session Fixation attacks wherein the attacker tricks the user into using a specific session ID.
CVE-2020-6291
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-14
SAP Disclosure Management, version 10.1, session mechanism does not have expiration data set therefore allows unlimited access after authenticating once, leading to Insufficient Session Expiration
CVE-2020-6292
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-14
Logout mechanism in SAP Disclosure Management, version 10.1, does not invalidate one of the session cookies, leading to Insufficient Session Expiration.