Geeky car thieves are switching from carjacking to car hacking

New cars have a tremendous pile of electronics that control almost every feature of the car, but a group of researchers at UC San Diego and University of Washington says that thieves are starting to hack at these very systems to gain control over the car.

A well-equipped car will have over 100 computers controlling everything from the door locks and brakes, to the starter and ignition system, but what is surprising is that many of these systems are interconnected. For example, a computer won't let the starter engage unless the driver is stepping on the brakes. The problem is that hackers are figuring out ways to hack into the system, making it much easier to steal the car without having to cut or break anything.

All cars built since 1996 already have a handy-dandy computer diagnostic port to make access easy, but you need to be inside the car to get to it. Luckily for the thieves, many cars are now adding wireless features, making it possible to launch an attack from outside the vehicle.

The researches hope that their work will convince the car manufacturers to step up their security protocols.

MIT Technology Review