The number of cars being stolen by criminals using hacking techniques has raised fears that a cyber crime wave is underway in the UK.
Car theft using cyber techniques has surged in recent months with reports of thefts coming in from across the country. In Cambridge, the issue has become so great that the local police force has issued warnings to worried residents.
The introduction of keyless cars and the increasing connectivity to the internet has seen savvy hackers get around vehicle security systems to literally steal cars from the owner’s driveway. Police are warning owners of keyless cars to take extra security precautions.
‘Anything connected to the internet can be hacked – including cars. What hackers can do depends on how much the internet connection interacts with different aspects of the vehicle,’ said a security expert.
Cyber crime wave?
Last year in London alone, over 6,000 cars and vans were stolen using cyber techniques, accounting for 42% of all reported car thefts. In the West Midlands, 1,234 vehicles were stolen. According to reports the easiest targets are Fords.
Worryingly, as well as cyber criminals using their skills to steal cars, it has also been shown that they can take complete control of a vehicle remotely as well. Last month it was shown that a Jeep Cherokee could be hacked to such an extent that the hacker could take control of the vehicles steering and brakes whilst travelling on a motorway.
With the advent of self-driving cars a hacker could hack into the vehicles GPS systems and deliver fake or altered maps to the car’s navigation systems. The potential for terrorist acts is very high not to mention hackers deliberately creating traffic jams or accidents.
Cyber criminals can purchase key-programming equipment online which allows them to easily make copies or clones of electronic keys. Another method of hackers is to use radio jammers which are able to block signals. In effect, the driver may think that they have locked their car, but in reality it remains unlocked.
“Anything that is under a computers control in a car is vulnerable to a malicious attack including the brakes, engine, lights, radio, wipers and electronic display. If a computer controls it, it can be controlled by an attacker. A hacker could seize control remotely through the panoply of wireless devices attached to the car, such as phones, Bluetooth devices, radios and tire pressure monitoring system," said an expert from PGI Cyber.
With the dangers posed by cyber threats, car manufacturers are putting cyber security at the top of their agendas.
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