Terrorist hackers working for enemy states could turn cars into killing machines, a security expert has warned.
Any car built after 2005 is an ‘open door’ to hackers and could be remotely controlled to obliterate ‘millions of civilians’, a researcher has found.
Even some vehicles up to 17 years old could be vulnerable to attack and unless car makers fix the problem deaths in the next five years are inevitable.
Hackers may already be causing accidents without authorities knowing, he says.
The warning was made by Justin Cappos, a computer scientist at New York University.
Dr Cappos says this vulnerability should be treated as an ‘urgent’ national security issue, writes The Times.
‘If there was a war or escalation with a country with strong cybercapability, I would be very afraid of hacking of vehicles.’
‘Many of our enemies are nuclear powers but any nation with the ability to launch a cyberstrike could kill millions of civilians by hacking cars. It’s daunting.’
Once in the car, Dr Cappos warned hackers can send messages that stop the brakes working and turn of power steering.
He has warned government ministers that security updates need to be taken as a matter of urgency as lives are at risk and says software updates should be mandatory.
‘Once you are in the network you are able to communicate with any device so you could send a message to engage the brakes,’ said Dr Cappos.
‘Components in cars are not good at understanding where messages come from and whether they are authentic.’
In 2016 hackers showed how they were able to take control of a Jeep Cherokee when it was moving at high speed.
Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, who now work for Uber, sent false messages to its internal network, overriding the correct ones.
That allowed them to do terrifying things such as making the vehicle turn sharply while it was speeding down a country road.
They also were able to make the vehicle unintentionally speed up, or remotely slam on its brakes.
‘If you can steer a car at any speed, that’s pretty dangerous,’ Miller said, as video showed the Jeep turning so hard and fast it left skid marks.
‘There’s no reason to think that this car company, or just American cars, is the only one that could be hacked,’ Mr Miller said.
A survery by Comparethemarket.com found 60 per cent of people have little or no confidence their car is safe from cyber attack.