Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Could My Car Get Hacked?

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!


Show Transcript

Do this

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

Podcast audio


17 comments on “Could My Car Get Hacked?”

  1. I wish that I could read the article on “Can my car get hacked?”. I am deaf and rely on reading the transcripts, but this time I couldn’t get it. The button took me to AdChoices.

  2. Hello, Leo, we nerdly-challenged and even apprentice nerds like me are ever grateful for your clear and incisive articles. So glad retirement was temporary. Hope the boss gives you time off. And a new Beemer. And month in Tahiti. Cheers, GWP

  3. So far, cars require physical access to hack… But many manufacturers (GM, Audi, Tesla are three I’m grabbing off the top of my head) are including 4G cellular and WiFi connectivity built right in, so that the infotainment system can grab traffic and weather data, and do more complicated things like search for points-of-interest on Google (for example). And the software in those infotainment systems is, in most cases, being automatically updated — which is good for security updates, of course — but the fact that those computers can be remotely accessed by the manufacturer means they can be accessed by hackers, once those hackers figure out how to bypass the automaker’s security.

    And *everything* in the car is connected by the CAN bus (Common Area Network). *Everything* can be messed with, once you have access to the CAN bus in a car. If you’re lucky, the hackers will just disable the car and prevent you from driving it. If you’re unlucky, they’ll take remote control of the throttle (*every* modern car has a throttle-by-wire system where your throttle pedal is not directly connected to the engine, but goes through a computer which in turn controls the engine) and cause it to run the engine at a very high rate of speed, potentially causing you to wreck and kill yourself.

    At least computer hacking doesn’t cause deaths! Car hacking can *easily* do so. The auto manufacturers need to step up their security measures a great deal!!!

    One other thing that comes to mind — software has a shelf-life. Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP. They have listed an EOL (End Of Life) date for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. Are the auto manufacturers going to do this with the software on our cars’ computers? Will there come a time when it’s just too bad for you because the manufacturer will not update the software, patching a recently-discovered security flaw? Your 8- or 10-year-old car becomes undriveable becuase the software is out of date? (Have you ever tried to use a 10-year-old computer program on a modern computer? You’ll know what I mean by “unusable”!). Classic cars are still on the road today, because there are no computers in them. Will modern cars simply be obsolete after 10 years, and we are absolutely forced to toss them out and buy new ones? Will there be no classic cars in the future, because today’s cars need new software to stay on the road, and there’s none available? That’s food for thought, at any rate…

    • I disagree with your opening sentence “So far, cars require physical access to hack”. Go to YouTube and search for “Jeep hack remote”. Have fun in watching the various video’s. That hack has been exposed and taken care of. How many similar hacks are available, and in what car models, remains unknown to the public.

  4. “Cars, not so much. Not yet anyway.” – Hacking nowadays is all about bucks. Unless the bad guys figure out a way to monetize car hacking, it’s likely not to happen.

    • I don’t know that I agree. Kids seem to be more motivated by the “lulz” or the chance for social media notoriety. Couple that with WAY too much time on their hands in the summer and …

      • It certainly used to be the case that hacking/malware creation was the realm of pimply-faced kids seeking noteritety; these days, however, it’s the work of skilled coders in the employ of criminal organizations – and it’s all about the bucks.

  5. People need to be aware that and external source can disable your car.
    If you are behind on a payment you ignition can be disabled through your GPS system.

    • I think you’re confusing signals from a communications satellite with GPS satellites. Functions in a car cannot be disabled by your GPS system. It simply reads data from GPS satellites & maps coordinate data to a mapping system like Google maps. On the other hand, communications satellites such as those used by OnStar, Lo-Jack or BlueSky can communicate with your car if it has that function turned on & perform various functions such as disabling your car. The satellites can transmit a specific code sequence that your on-board computers receive & perform that specific requested function.

  6. If cars can be hacked and controlled, this could be useful to the police and enable them to stop a car they were chasing instead of the dangerous car chasing and the potential for accidents that they involve.

  7. It would be interesting if after a software update the brake pedal accelerates the car or turning the steering wheel to the left makes the car go right. This is not a silly notion. Just a matter of time. All it takes is a misplaced negative sign or a poorly selected variable name in the code.

  8. “Security in order to be done well, really needs to be part of a device’s architecture from the beginning.”

    Probably the most important thing you’ve said this week. I’ve promoted that for years (been in IT before it was called IT) and I’ve harped on security, mostly to deaf ears.

    Thanks for saying it.

  9. I find your items very helpful for just general understanding of topics around computers etc.
    This on car hacking was particularly interesting because, as a bit of geek, I get lots of questions on security of IoT’s & particularly cars.
    Keep up the good work including the transcripts.


Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.