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Automotive Cyber Attack Methods

FREMONT, CA | Thursday, April 29, 2021

Although having the data compromised is unsettling, the prospect of a hacker gaining control of the vehicle is frightening. Hackers may use commands to switch on or off features like the air conditioning and windshield wipers and control the steering, brakes, and engine.

FREMONT, CA

Computer systems are heavily used in modern vehicles to track and manage the vehicle's various systems. Hackers can steal data, such as the location information via GPS if an automobile's technology is not secure. But it gets even scarier: hackers can issue commands to vehicles, causing them to follow the hacker rather than the driver. Although having the data compromised is unsettling, the prospect of a hacker gaining control of the vehicle is frightening. Hackers may use commands to switch on or off features like the air conditioning and windshield wipers and control the steering, brakes, and engine.

Automotive Cyber Attack Methods

So, what does an actor need to do if they want to take control of a vehicle or its systems? They must first find a way to gain access to the vehicle's systems. This allows them to compromise an electronic control unit (ECU), which is the automotive industry's term for an automotive IoT system or computer, and find a feature to compromise.

There are many places where one should be worried about cyberattack methods:

Direct Physical Attacks: When someone has direct physical access to a car, such as when it is in a shop for repairs or breaks into it, these types of attacks occur. Onboard vehicle networks, ports, and numerous connectors are commonly used in these attacks. An intruder could install hardware or software on the vehicle that allows them to take control of it later (while the vehicle owner is driving it).

Indirect Physical Vulnerabilities: Unlike the first, this form of attack necessitates the use of some kind of medium. Firmware updates, the use of SD cards and USB units, and so on are examples of these mediums. An attacker might, for example, persuade a vehicle owner to plug in a malware-infected MP3 player.

Wireless Vulnerabilities: This can vary from short-range attacks such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth attacks to long-range mechanisms involving GPS or cellular technology. The hacker does not require physical access to the car to carry out these attacks.

Sensor Fooling Vulnerabilities: While there are not any known threats of this nature at the moment, that does not rule out the possibility of sensors being exploited.

Without any internal defense measures in place, if a hacker gains access to the virtual interiors of the car, they are free to do whatever they want with it.  Strong automotive cyber protection comes into play here, keeping hackers out of vehicle networks while also preventing them from causing problems if they do get in.

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