Latest Security Test Shows Smart Cars Are Still Way Too Hackable by Kayla Matthews

Thanks to current technology, we’re more connected than ever before. More people turn to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook for their news than traditional news outlets and social media based streaming services like Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope have even served to replace normal news when there’s something going on that they don’t want us to know about.

While this connectivity is a great thing, the movement to add interconnectivity comes with a variety of security concerns which were brought to the forefront after British researchers were able to hack into Mitsubishi’s new Outlander model using the car’s integrated Wi-Fi.  What does this mean for the new smart cars that are already on the market or being released soon?

Latest Security Test Shows Smart Cars Are Still Way Too Hackable

How to Hack an Outlander

The new Mitsubishi Outlander smart car links many of its settings to a mobile app that connects to the car’s integrated Wi-Fi network. While this app is secured by an SSID and password, researchers at the Pen Test Partners security firm were still able to hack into the Outlander’s systems.  While it does not affect the driver’s ability to start or drive the car, it does allow the hacker to change the battery charging settings, the air conditioning settings, and some other more important systems, such as the security alarm.

While a thief or hacker cannot use the security flaw to open the doors, all it takes is a quick command to disable the alarm, and then a thief can break a window or pick the door lock at his or her leisure.

Pen Test Partner’s released a video showcasing the hack.  Even using a low-powered hacking rig, the researchers were able to break into the car’s Wi-Fi network in 4 days, but if you’ve got some money to spare, you can pay to have someone process the hack nearly instantly.

Responses from Mitsubishi

Initially it seemed like Mitsubishi didn’t have much to say about this potential security problem, but when they finally did comment it left a lot of people wondering about the security of their smart cars.

“This is the first reported incident of hacking involving any Mitsubishi vehicle to date. While Mitsubishi Motors is working diligently to investigate the issue, it is important to clarify that this hack only pertains to the smart phone app and has limited actual impact on the vehicle itself.”

For those of us who don’t speak public relations, that basically translates to “Thanks for letting us know, but it’s really not a big deal.”

You can read the rest of Mitsubishi’s comments here.

What Does This Mean for Smart Cars?

So what does this mean for the smart car industry?  While, there have been no actual reports of cars being stolen or compromised in such a way, it is possible that in the near future a hacker could access your car through its remote key, steering system and even its airbags.

The one thing that smart car manufacturers have going for them right now is the fact that researchers like Pen Test Partners and others around the world are doing this kind of work – finding the loopholes in the security systems so they can be fixed now, before they can be found and exploited by someone with more malicious motives.

Eventually, smart cars could even learn to recognize hacks like these as malware, in the same way that your computer recognizes it and protects itself. That could potentially enable these cars to not only protect themselves and their passengers, but to collect and report information on new hacks and exploits before they become a real problem.

Cybercrime is the crime of the 21st Century and as technology becomes more advanced, we will have to become more vigilant in our defenses, but the potential benefits of smart cars and other trends toward the Internet of Things movement vastly outweighs any potential threat.  We never would have gotten as far as we have now if we let the threat of a little cybercrime deter us from making those advances in leaps and bounds.

Smart cars are the next logical step toward creating a truly connected society, and a couple of bumps in the road aren’t going to stop that. All we have to do now is keep pressuring Mitsubishi and other similar manufacturers to address these security flaws with all haste as soon as they are discovered. If we can impress the importance of this on them, there will be nothing holding these new advances back.