Spanish engineers Javier Vázquez Vidal and Alberto Garcia Illera have built a $25 gadget that they claim can read data from and write data to the electronic control unit (ECU), which represents the brains of most modern cars. With the device, Vázquez Vidal says, “[I]t would take no time to gain total control over a vehicle – deploying an airbag, activating the brakes, or immobilising a car at any moment.” They plan to demonstrate the gadget later this month at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas.
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What’s the Big Idea?
Some intelligence experts, like former National Security Council adviser Richard Clarke, believe cyberattacks on cars are entirely possible. He was quoted in a Huffington Post article saying that the recent death of Rolling Stone investigative journalist Michael Hastings may have been caused by such an attack. Engineer Peter Highton says that as recently as five years ago, “data on the CAN bus of most cars was unencrypted, and so could be intercepted and altered.” Once connected cars make their debut, encryption will become even more necessary.