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Vulnerabilities / Threats

10/12/2015
01:15 PM
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Police Car Hacks: Under The Hood

A closer look at how researchers hacked two Virginia State Trooper vehicles.

The recent hacks performed on two different Virginia State Trooper vehicles were nowhere near as sexy as the live-drive Jeep Cherokee remote attacks by renowned car hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek. For one thing, they required initial physical tampering or access to the 2012 Chevrolet Impala and 2013 Ford Taurus, which are much lower-tech than the Internet-equipped 2014 Cherokee.

They also weren't tested with a police officer--or a journalist--behind the wheel. But in some ways, they are more scary, with the potential for an officer's vehicle to be a target and how they showed that older vehicles with few networked features are not immune to hacking.

I got to see the researchers' work firsthand earlier this month at the VSP's Driver Training Complex tucked away in rural Virginia's old tobacco country.

[Police car-hacking research initiative in Virginia shows how even older vehicles could be targeted in cyberattacks. Read State Trooper Vehicles Hacked.]

Here's a look at the work the Mitre team did on the unmarked Chevy Impala. In this video, the researchers demonstrate a prototype plug-in module built by working group member Kaprica Security to mitigate the car attacks created by the Mitre team. When the device is in place, the attacks don't execute. But when the driver removes it, the attacker (sitting in the backseat) is able to control the vehicle via his smartphone:

This second video, which was shot on behalf of the public-private partnership that worked on the police car-hacking project, is an overview of all of the attacks the researchers waged on the two vehicles, including locking an officer in the vehicle from the inside, engaging the wipers and fluid, starting the car remotely and wreaking havoc on the dashboard gauges, including the speedometer.It also shows in action the mitigation techniques by Kaprica Security and Mission Secure Inc. (MSi):

Among the organizations that worked on the project were the Virginia State Police, the University of Virginia, Mitre Corp., Mission Secure Inc. (MSi), Kaprica Security, Spectrum, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, Digital Bond Labs, the Aerospace Corporation, and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. The research was conducted in coordination with the US Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology division and the US Department of Transportation's Volpe Transportation Systems Center.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio
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