Modern cars are getting more and more computerized, and that's a good thing, since they can now interconnect with all of our mobile devices and the Internet. But this also leaves them more vulnerable to hacking, even by something as simple as playing music on the stereo.
Researchers from the University of Washington and UCSD have been trying to hack into cars using different methods for the last few years, and they've recently hit upon a way to alter the firmware of an unnamed 2009 model vehicle by just playing a CD on the stereo.
By adding extra code to a digital music file, they were able to turn a song burned to CD into a Trojan horse. When played on the car's stereo, this song could alter the firmware of the car's stereo system, giving attackers an entry point to change other components on the car.
So for example, playing the song could hypothetically alter the car's firmware such that a hacker walking by with a cell phone could command all the doors to unlock and the car to start, all using Bluetooth. Good times.
Hacking a car isn't exactly like hacking a computer, because each brand (and model and year) use different control systems, making it difficult to find exploits. Even so, when researchers make statements saying that car hacking is "unlikely to happen in the future," it seems like they're just begging for some enterprising hackers to prove them wrong.
According to the researchers, car companies are apparently taking these potential security vulnerabilities very seriously, and that's good, especially since within the next decade, most cars are likely to start incorporating some substantial autonomous capability. This means that with a big enough security hole, a hacker could just email your car while you're not around and have it drive off and steal itself.