Could Cyber-Terrorists Seize Control of Your Car?

In 2007's "Live Free or Die Hard," Bruce Willis' John McClane battles cyber-terrorists who are able to hack into just about anything connected to a computer network and wreak havoc on the nation. Although the movie seems far-fetched at times, the threat itself is actually quite realistic, particularly with regard to the cars we drive every day.

Nearly every facet of a car is computerized in some way, including brakes, powertrain, throttle, multimedia systems and Bluetooth connectivity. The more electronically advanced cars become, the more vulnerable they are to exploitation by people with ill intent, namely terrorists. Still sound far-fetched? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finds it plausible enough. AOL Autos reports that the agency opened a cyber-terrorism department, the Electronic Safety Research Division, to monitor car-software issues and their potential for being used in an attack.

Connected cars are of particular concern as wireless, vehicle-to-vehicle-infrastructure technology develops and autonomous cars move closer to reality. Such technology has vast safety implications, as an overwhelming majority of accidents are attributable to human error, but there's a flip side to that too. "Experts fear terrorists could launch an attack by breaching security in the software of a particular automaker or, in the years ahead, through the wireless infrastructure being developed to provide information for connected cars," AOL stated in its report.

Researchers have already demonstrated this possibility during multiple experiments in recent years, hacking into an "ordinary, mid-priced, late-model sedan available to any consumer," and stirring up all sorts of mischief, including unlocking the doors, eavesdropping on conversations, starting and stopping the engine, compromising critical systems, uploading malware and taking control of the telematics system, AOL stated. NHTSA administrator David Strickland noted that there has never been an unauthorized accessing of a vehicle on the road today, AOL stated.

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