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How Safe Is Your New Car if a Drone Can Hack It?You may have seen the video of a Tesla Model 3 being remotely hacked by a drone flying over the car. This started when the Pwn2Own2020 hacking competition canceled the automotive portion of the competition due to concerns related to the coronavirus. Some researchers decided to keep the momentum going and continue with their own version of the competition, which is why they ended up hacking into the Tesla in the first place.

The research group used a drone to gain control of the Tesla infotainment system. This may not sound alarming, but the group was able to gain access to quite a few features including unlocking and opening doors. The team was also able to change the seat positions, play music, and play with the climate controls.

Most alarming, they were able to access the driving and steering modes. This is a small list of what they were able to access by using a drone, but there were many other features that they were able to control in the vehicle.

The software that was used in the hack is called ConnMann, which is used for a variety of systems that are Linux-based. This is also used in many automobile systems and is not exclusive to Tesla. ConnMann is vulnerable because it can be accessed over WiFi. Once hackers are able to access the infotainment system, the real fun for them begins.

The Model 3 was not the only vulnerable Tesla model. It was also found that the group would have been able to hack Tesla Models X, S, and Y. The group of researchers presented their findings to Tesla’s bug bounty program, which has taken action to correct the issue. The findings can help not only Tesla but other car companies find problem areas within their operation and work to correct them. Whether other car companies will take this information into account is yet to be seen.

Are other manufacturers vulnerable to hacks?

Yes, they are. As technology in cars advances, so do their vulnerabilities. Most modern cars are packed with technology and computers to assist us while we drive or to provide entertainment. However, this also means that like any other computer, our cars can be hacked. Although Tesla was diligent in patching and updating their vehicle software not all car manufacturers have.

This means your teched-out vehicle may be left vulnerable to drone hacks similar to the ones tested on Tesla. In a move to ensure that hacks like this do not happen again, Tesla changed their software from ConnMann to dnsmasq. No other car manufacturers have stated that they have updated or changed their software at the time of this writing. It would be advised to do so with the information that has come to light.

Updating and changing software is not going to deter all hackers. As long as computers are installed in cars, there will be vulnerabilities to go along with them. This will continue to be a cat and mouse game. A hacker will find a way in, the car company will patch the issue, a hacker will gain access and the cycle will continue.

How a microchip shortage could leave us vulnerable

You may think that only modern cars have computer chips in them, but computer chips have been in cars since 1968 when the Volkswagen Type 3 used a computer chip to control and monitor fuel injection systems. Modern cars now use microchips for more than fuel injection systems. You can find chips used for braking, HVAC, engine management, infotainment systems, and more. If you own a newer car, you might not even be aware that there is this much computer software in your vehicle.

With the pandemic, more and more people began working from home which led to a number of issues. Fewer people were buying cars and were instead buying more home electronics. This meant that orders for car chips were reduced or completely stopped. These are two different kinds of chips, so if a car chip manufacturer has shut down, a consumer chip manufacturer cannot pick up the extra work. The microchip shortage shows us that without technology, modern cars cannot function. This also adds to the point that with so much computer software in our vehicles, there also come vulnerabilities as with any kind of technology.

How dangerous is a car hack?

You might be wondering just how dangerous having your car’s infotainment system hacked really is. Imagine, you are driving and all of a sudden the position of your seat is moved, causing you to lose control of the vehicle. You then crash into the car in front of you. You will more than likely be named the at-fault party in the police report and you may not even fully understand what happened.

If your own vehicle’s safety, steering, or fuel systems are hacked, there could be multiple liable parties in the event of a wreck. The car manufacturer may be held accountable, and so could the hacker (provided you could find him or her).

If you have been involved in a car accident of any kind, you will need legal representation. Contact the Chattanooga car accident attorneys from Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law today. We serve clients in Cleveland, TN, Chattanooga, and North Georgia. Call our office at 423-756-7923, or complete a contact form to schedule an appointment.