If you have a wheel manufactured from 2008 and beyond, you are familiar with the built-in tire sensors. The tire sensors measure tire pressure and if a tire is below the suggested PSI, a warning light shows up on the vehicle’s dashboard. For some of us the tire monitoring system has not worked properly and we have had to have the sensors replaced. The purpose of the tire monitors is to make sure your tires are properly inflated and to prevent accidents caused by underinflated tires.
Now a group of researchers from Rutgers University and the University of South Carolina have shown the sensors can be hacked. In a recent article it states that:
Earlier in the year, researchers from the University of Washington and University of California San Diego showed that the ECUs could be hacked, giving attackers the ability to be both annoying, by enabling wipers or honking the horn, and dangerous, by disabling the brakes or jamming the accelerator.
The new research shows that other systems in the vehicle are similarly insecure. The tire pressure monitors are notable because they’re wireless, allowing attacks to be made from adjacent vehicles. The researchers used equipment costing $1,500, including radio sensors and special software, to eavesdrop on, and interfere with, two different tire pressure monitoring systems.
The pressure sensors contain unique IDs, so merely eavesdropping enabled the researchers to identify and track vehicles remotely. Beyond this, they could alter and forge the readings to cause warning lights on the dashboard to turn on, or even crash the ECU completely.
Unlike the work earlier this year, these attacks are more of a nuisance than any real danger; the tire sensors only send a message every 60-90 seconds, giving attackers little opportunity to compromise systems or cause any real damage. Nonetheless, both pieces of research demonstrate that these in-car computers have been designed with ineffective security measures.
My first thought was someone has way too much time on their hands. But I also wondered who was paying for this research. I would venture a guess that it is most likely the federal government that is providing the money for this research.
I now drive with my eyes on the dashboard waiting for the tire sensor light to come. What a joke!
If I bang a metal garbage can lid really loud, my cat jumps. Do I get to collect $1M for my research?