Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hacking Toyota

I've been in the computer security field for a long time. Paranoia about your hardware and software is institutional. I remember when they first came out with the Toyota Prius with Bluetooth and other wireless technologies.

All the geeks said, "Oh, yeah." All the security geeks said, "Heck no!".

One guy went to great lengths to order his Prius without any of that stuff. The sales guy shook his head in disbelief and said, "Why wouldn't you want all this great computer technology in your car? You should know better, you're a computer guy."

The answer was, "Right: I'm in computer security and I don't want it. What does that tell you?"

These days the car and its engine controls are more computer than mechanics. It's really hard to just pop the hood and fix something on the side of the road without specialized equipment. What's that little computer doing anyway?

When you hack into a computer operating system you get a root command prompt.

What do you get when you hack into a Toyota? Well, that probably would never happen ... the current out of control acceleration is all mechanical, not electronic -- see why.
[Popular Mechanics] But the possibility that a vehicle could go from idling at a traffic light to terrific, uncalled-for and uncontrollable acceleration because the guy next to you at a traffic light answered his cellphone? Or some ghost in the machine or a hacker caused a software glitch that made your car run away and the brakes suddenly simultaneously fail? Not in the least bit likely.
So while it's fun to dream about a super-hack on the car, the current life-threatening problems that Toyota (and others) are having is not funny at all. The only thing getting hacked is Toyota's reputation.


aka the Mom said...

You sound like my own Computer Guy who says all those bells and whistles are just one more thing to break or for bad guys to get in. Paranoia thy name is Computer Nerd.

Nod said...

I'll take that as a compliment!

aka the Mom said...

So would he.


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