According to an experiment conducted by an Associate Professor at Hiroshima City University’s Graduate School of Information Sciences, Japanese cars equipped with devices connected to the internet can be hacked and controlled remotely through smartphones.
Hiroyuki Inoue said he was able to remotely open and close car windows, freeze a car’s accelerator and display an incorrect speedometer reading. However, the cars that are currently on the market are not directly affected by it, as their computers have no access to the internet, he said.
But cars that are privately altered and equipped with internet devices could be hacked cautions Inoue. Internet-linked technologies such as self-driving vehicles are also being developed by Japanese manufacturers.
Inoue used a 2013 Toyota Motor Corp’s Corolla Fielder Hybrid for his experiments, a Wi-Fi device he assembled with commercially available parts that costing about 10,000 yen (US$83) and a smartphone app that he developed to remotely control the vehicle.
He succeeded in gaining access to unencrypted data inside the car’s computer, which controls the engine, brake and other functions by connecting the Wi-Fi device to a certain terminal of the car, which is about five centimeters long and normally used to attach a monitoring device for maintenance work.
As a result, the hacked vehicle showed a reading of 180 kph on its speed display even though it was parked.
The car was also paralyzed when it was bombarded with an overwhelming larger amount of data traffic, creating a situation similar to a computer that has come under a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, a common technique used by hackers to attack computer servers over the Internet. This left the driver unable to move the car even when hitting the accelerator.
Inoue said that the maneuver could not start the engine or move the steering wheel.
Calling for the need to encrypt onboard data and take other steps to protect a car’s systems from unwanted access to protect the systems from unnecessary access from outside, he said, “Important (data) communication was in full view from outside. Other cars could also be subject to hacking in the same way.”
The industry will work on measures to handle the matters by cooperating with the government said an official at the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.
Toyota said that it will continue making efforts to improve protection on information security.
Inoeu has plans to announce the details of the experiment at a three-day symposium on cyber security starting today in Okinawa.
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