Hackers show US Police Department Vehicles can be hacked

Security researchers Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller helped the world understand that late-model vehicles are vulnerable to cyber attacks.

We have read about police getting their computers hacked or falling for ransomware and all that, but hackers can hack their cars? That’s something we weren’t expecting.

Post the astonishing Chrysler hacking scandal, it has now come to light that majority of police vehicles are also vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Miller and Valasek have previously detected vulnerabilities in Ford Escape in 2013. During that particular hijack, the research duo plowed into weeds in an uninhibited parking lot. They managed to hijack the computer systems of state police cruisers.

According to Valasek and Miller, the probable attacks on state police vehicles can be of any type, reports Dark Reading.

This specific hack is mainly focused on stationary police cars. The hacker could infiltrate the car’s internal systems and make the operator of the car unable to shift the gear from park to drive. Then they can make the engine RPMs spike and the engine accelerate, without having any foot on the pedal.

Then they work the system to ensure the engine cuts off.

The officer would be stuck without a way to go anywhere – leaving them in potentially life-threatening situations. But don’t be too scared about the real-world implications. Ford explained that this hack was done under extreme circumstances and carried out by professionals.

Such as an uncontrollably blasting horn or manipulating car breaks and speeds, spoofing GPS, tampering with odometer and speedometer as well as compromising power steering by sending a set of commands.

According to Miller and Valasek, Virginia State Police/VSP have waged cyberwar against the 2012 Chevrolet Impalas and 2013 Ford Tauruses after finding out that non-networked cars are also vulnerable to cyberattacks.

In July 2015, a couple of US Senators, Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal showed their concerns about the safety of vehicles as well as the drivers and asked for increased security and protection for the vehicles on board computer.

They said that vulnerabilities like these can put the drivers in a life-threatening condition.

Both Senators passed a law known as “SPY Car Act” which would allow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to ensure the safety and security of the data of vehicle as well as the driver behind the wheel.

The digital copy of the Spy Car Act is available here (PDF version).

Read more on the unexpected hacks of 2015 including the hacks on vehicles.

Waqas

Waqas Amir is a Milan-based cybersecurity journalist with a passion for covering latest happenings in cyber security and tech world. In addition to being the founder of this website, Waqas is also into gaming, reading and investigative journalism.