Wheels To Steal: Car Theft Goes Hi-Tech

11:31 PM, Dec 21, 2011   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- Car dealers know most of us envy the latest technology on new models: Bluetooth, On Star, gps, satellite traffic and radio.

What they don't tell us is the more connected your car is, the more vulnerable it may be to hackers.

It's gone way beyond theoretical. A Maryland family's convinced hackers penetrated the electronics of their son's 2011 Dodge Charger and stole it from the driveway while he was deployed in Afghanistan.

"It's not like you're going to be driving down the street and somebody is going to point the phone and shut your car down. We're not there yet. But it's definitely something to keep an eye on," says Dave Marcus, director of security research for McAfee, the internet security company.

In San Francisco, researchers accessed the car's central computer processor through an internet-connected car alarm.
In Seattle, researchers blacked out the make and model of a car that offered multiple pathways for hackers a thousand miles away to send out gps coordinates, open the doors, and have a colleague drive away without a key in the ignition. In New Jersey, Brandon Fiquette developed an iPhone app that lets him unlock cars and start engines by voice.

Marcus says he's been thinking like a hacker to come up with ways to protect cars. "You think that's a car, that car has a computer, that lock on that car is controlled by a computer, I want to write some code that lets me do that remotely."

McAfee and other security experts are now working with manufacturers to develop firewalls to keep attackers out of your car. But next time you long for a new high tech vehicle, you may want to ask a few questions: "Do really want my car to do that and what kind of exposure am I potentially bringing?"

This is one case where the older, the less connected the car, the safer you may be.

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