For connected cars, improved functionality means gaps in the armor

Tesla Model S interior
Every year, our cars inch closer to becoming rolling smartphones, and while we revel in the opportunity to link our devices, communicate with our circles, and update our preferences on the fly, the windows of opportunity for hackers grow with each advancement.

To showcase the vulnerabilities of the connected car, two security experts in Missouri recently took control of a Jeep Cherokee as it drove down the highway. You’ve heard of hackers commandeering door locks and sound systems before, but Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller were able to hijack the vehicle’s Unconnect infotainment system and manipulate the brakes, engine, and transmission with a couple laptops in a living room.

The Uconnect experiment wasn’t the first time a car has been hacked, and it certainly won’t be the last, but perhaps more stringent regulations can cut down on incidents like these in the future.

The Security and Privacy in Your Car Act (SPY Car Act), a Senate bill recently proposed by Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), hopes to do just that, and we reached out to industry experts to get their take.

One authority we spoke to was Mahbubul Alam, the chief technology officer for Movimento Group. Movimento specializes in over-the-air software updates and connected cars, and the company’s latest offering can update any OBDII vehicle’s operating system wirelessly once the client has been installed. For Alam, keeping hackers out is all about redundancy.

“Security is a constant rate race,” he said. “You just have to be ahead of those hackers, that’s the race, and it’s a lifelong race.”

“Since [Movimento] can update all the ECUs, we are also monitoring those ECUs,” he continued. “The way that the ECUs work in a nutshell, there is an operational mode and there is a programming mode. If someone is trying to set the ECU into programming mode, and it is not authorized by the Movimento client or the cloud manager, we will block it and report it back. The car will continue to operate there will not be any change. We can do that within 10 milliseconds, and the ECU typically takes longer than that [to react].”

While companies like Movimento pride themselves on their safeguarding abilities, it appears that mainstream automakers have fallen behind, as the technologies and talents of hackers have zeroed in on the weaknesses of the modern connected car. Legislators and pundits around the world are echoing Markey and Blumenthal’s concerns, but few are closer to the issue than the men who sent the Jeep Cherokee helplessly rolling to a stop.

“We feel that as cars become more connected, software security becomes more important,” Valasek and Miller said in a statement. “In addition to robust, well-tested software, technology for monitoring, logging, detecting, and possibly stopping attacks should also be implemented.”


Driving a prototype 2020 Passat at Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground

Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground is where new cars are tested to the breaking point, including the 2020 Passat midsize sedan. Ride along as the new Passat completes testing ahead of its 2019 launch.

Thinking of opting for a car with a diesel engine? Here's what you need to know

Modern diesel-powered models prove that it is possible to build a clean, efficient diesel engine without sacrificing performance. Here's what you need to know about diesel cars, and how they differ from gasoline-powered models.
Emerging Tech

With this robotic garage, retrieving your car is like using a vending machine

Remembering where we parked our cars can be a real pain. But what if our cars came to find us, rather than the other way around? A new automated robot parking valet system aims to help.

Bloodhound’s plan to build a 1,000-mph car has run out of gas

The Bloodhound supersonic car (SSC) project has officially shut down. The upside is you can now buy a 135,000-horsepower car powered by a jet engine and a cluster of rockets for $319,000.

Bosch’s CES-bound shuttle concept takes us on a trip to a not-too-distant future

Bosch envisions a future in which driverless shuttles occupy their own market segment. The German firm won't build the shuttles, but it wants to provide everything else, ranging from the drive system to the apps used to hail them.
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.

McLaren puts the pedal to the metal in special-edition OnePlus 6T

The OnePlus 6T is yet another flagship killer smartphone, bringing powerful specifications to a much lower price than the competition. Now, OnePlus has teamed up with McLaren for the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition.
Product Review

Boring takes a back seat as 2019 Corolla Hatchback mixes fun with practicality

We drive the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, the latest hatchback to bear the Corolla name. As the best-selling nameplate in automotive history, Toyota has high expectations to meet. This model mostly lives up to the legacy.

Hertz speeds up car rentals with biometric scan technology

Biometric security technology that uses face, fingerprint, and voice recognition is gaining traction, with Hertz emerging as the latest company to incorporate it into its daily operations.
Product Review

Inside Maserati's Levante SUV beats the heart of a Ferrari

Maserati’s luxury SUV gets a shot in the arm by way of Ferrari-derived V8 power, but is it enough to go toe-to-toe with the established players in the high performance sport-utility segment? Let’s find out.

Aston Martin’s 1,000-hp Valkyrie will boast the Mona Lisa of the engine world

Aston Martin has released new details about its F1-inspired Valkyrie hypercar. Co-developed with Red Bull Racing, the Valkyrie will be one of the most aerodynamic production cars ever made.

The redesigned 2020 Passat shows Volkswagen still believes in sedans

The sedan segment in America is shrinking, but Volkswagen still believes in it. The German firm has released a teaser sketch to preview the redesigned 2020 Passat it will introduce during the 2019 Detroit Auto Show.

Infiniti previews its leap into one of the hottest industry segments

Infiniti has released a teaser image to preview a concept it will unveil at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The yet-unnamed design study is an electric crossover shaped by Infiniti's newest design language.

What’s next for in-car entertainment? Audi believes it knows

Audi is bringing two technologies to CES 2019. The first turns a car -- a luxury sedan, in this case -- into a drive-in movie theater. The second is presented as a new entertainment format that turns the journey into the destination.