Hackers Can Unlock Cars Via Text Messages

Jul 28, 2011
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Hackers Can Unlock Cars Via Text Messages

So we've all seen those commercials lately where the integration of new technology with automobiles lets a person unlock and start his or her spiffy new BMW remotely with a cellphone app. It's convenient indeed and may also make it more convenient for hackers to hijack your car. According to two security researchers, hackers can do just that via what's called "war texting."

Don Bailey and Mathew Solnik, employed by iSEC Partners, have found a way to unlock vehicles using remote control and telemetry systems such as the BMW Assist, GM OnStar, Ford Sync, and Hyundai Blue Link. With off-the-shelf parts and a couple hours of tinkering, the duo was able to reverse engineer the communication protocol and pose as the GSM or CDMA mobile network servers via "war texting" or the act of finding open wireless networks.

The scariest part of this vulnerability is that it may apply to many other systems that also use telephony as a control network, including traffic control systems, 3G security cameras, home automation systems, and SCADA systems. SCADA is employed in many industrial applications such as manufacturing, power generation, water treatment, as well as oil and gas pipelines management.

Bailey and Solnik will be presenting their findings at the Black Hat conference next week, but will not reveal the exact details of their attack until the affected manufacturers fix the problem. They also do not plan on disclosing which on-board systems they were able to hack.

Other security presentations expected at Black Hat include the recent claims of a vulnerability in laptop batteries, specifically those of Apple's MacBook Pro and Air laptops, that could allow hackers to take control of laptop and even cause physical harm.


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