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Wheel with spying devices track users

The Modern Automobile uses many electronic components. These components have a variety of functions such as switching the ignition on or off, stop the car in case of an emergency, or monitor the condition of the car.

The University of Southern California in cooperation with Rutgers University researches on how secure an automobile’s electronically assisted components are. One such research focused on how the wireless tire pressure sensors communicated with the on board Controller Area Network (CAN). This research by Ishtiaq Rouf and his associates showed that there is a security vulnerability in how these components communicate. Although they only focused on what information could be gathered from these components. 

They found out that the system could be fixed

To allow the vehicle in question to be tracked based on the specific information its tires generate. Since vehicles in the US are required to have these kinds of components and it seems that EU may soon follow suit, the security of these components need to be improved.  

 

With the use of open source software, an antenna amplifier, and a Universal Software Radio Peripheral, the researchers were able to intercept transmissions from individual sensors and control systems of a vehicle. These transmissions were not encrypted and to the amazement of the researchers, the on-board electronics don’t even verify the information sent to them. It could intercept signals from a vehicle up to 10 meters away.

Those with malicious intent could actually

Drain the batteries of tire sensors.

Mislead the car’s control systems. Yet this type of monitoring could be a cheaper substitute for video tracking technology and help measure and identify cars and monitor how they move in traffic. As the sensors are perpetually on and cannot be disabled by the vehicle owner, the researchers suggest that car developers should switch to more secure forms of transmission, encrypt data from such sensors, and add a consistency check to the controller while it processes the data received.

 

Car safety is very important. There is a draft of IEEE standards for wireless communication devices on vehicles that is yet to be finalized. Making sure that all modern components of a vehicle are properly made secure becomes paramount. Surely accidents and mishaps can be avoided when a vehicle's on-board electronics work securely and as designed.

 

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