Sensors, radars, cameras and lasers are all increasingly being built into vehicles to make cars safer and more convenient. Unfortunately, all the new technology also gives hackers more points of entry to gain control remotely.
"We now have lots of wireless access on vehicles. Everything like the tire pressure monitor in the system to the entertainment systems on board used for real-time navigation or streaming. We've got Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and all sorts of things like that on modern vehicles," said Richard Wallace, director for transportation system analysis at the center for Automotive Research.
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"All of those allow someone who is not even inside the vehicle to gain access to do something malicious. Even something as simple as accessing your keyless entry system," Wallace said.
For example, some vehicles, including Tesla, have built-in wireless networks that enable the car company to send automatic software updates. While, this seems like a seamless way to issue large amounts of updates to cars' systems, it could also open up a new point of intrusion for bad guys.
"Being able to wirelessly update is great, but it also opens up another potential point for attack. If you can hack the update infrastructure and push your own update into cars then you can take over everyone," Williams said.
While remotely accessing a car to take over critical functions has proved difficult thus far, it's becoming more of a reality.
Just last week a security hole in BMW's system was exposed that allowed security researchers to spoof a cellphone station and send fake text messages to a SIM card in the car's telematics system. From there, the researchers could control the locks in the car.
"If I can unlock your car without a key, what else can I do? If I could figure out how to start the car, I could steal it. And with emerging automated vehicles, maybe you could make the vehicle drive away or smash it into something. These are real concerns," Wallace said.