Hack attacks could fuel carjacks, experts say


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It wasn’t easy. But with the help of a federal grant, expert computer hackers were able to take the time to figure out how to exploit vulnerabilities in vehicle computer systems, with potentially disastrous results.

“We could control steering, braking, acceleration to a certain extent, seat belts, lights, horn, speedometer, gas gauge,” said Chris Valasek, who serves as director of intelligence at IOActive. He and Charlie Miller, a security engineer for Twitter who works out of St. Louis, released a report discussing what they did at a hackers convention last month, according to the Associated Press.

As a practical matter, it’s too much work for the average criminal to do something like this, professor Stefan Savage of the University of California at San Diego says. Two years ago, he participated in a similar research project that also found a way to remotely kill the engine, put on the brakes—or turn them off entirely.

More likely, he says, is that hackers will use the ability to remotely unlock doors to steal packages and other items from inside vehicles or gain entry and start the vehicles by hacking into the diagnostic port intended for mechanics.

Updated at 1:49 p.m. to include information about Valasek’s job at IOActive.

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