Do We Need to Worry About Our Car’s Auto Pilot Being Hacked?

Do We Need to Worry About Our Car’s Auto Pilot Being Hacked?

Auto pilot is the wave of the future in the automotive industry, and the technology has a lot of potential. Something clients ask us when we provide cybersecurity in Miami is if their cars can be hacked.

The simple answer is yes.

State of Auto Pilot Hacking

Autonomous vehicles have an inherent risk of being hacked because they’re, essentially, massive computers on wheels. There's so much going on with auto pilot in vehicles, such as scanning the road, sharing data with other vehicles and so on.

Many autos are offering autonomous function, with the leaders in the industry being:

  • Hyundai
  • Tesla
  • Waymo
  • Ford
  • Audi
  • Kia

And each of these manufacturers will have its own level of risk of their system being hacked.

In the past decade or so, software in your automobile has increased. The average auto has 100 million lines of coding to help it run properly. If you don’t know how to visualize or compare that, there are more lines of coding in your auto than in a jet or even your smartphone.

The main issue with strengthening this coding is that:

  • Manufacturers write a lot of the coding
  • Suppliers write some coding, too

When you have a third-party writing code for their own components, it reduces overall security. Manufacturers may not have access to the source code, and with 100 million lines of code, it takes only one insecure line of code for hackers to exploit.

There are also massive supply chains, so understanding each type of software and its threats for a manufacturer is incredibly difficult.

Hacking a Tesla

In 2020, one hacker was able to hack a Tesla, and all he had to do was fly a drone over the vehicle. Using the drone and a few of his own secrets, the hacker unlocked the vehicle’s doors. He believes you can steal a vehicle using the same technique.

As an ethical hacker, he alerted Tesla to the issue and how to duplicate it so that the company could stop it from occurring in the future.

What’s worrisome is that he explains there have been theoretical instances where:

  • Hackers could hold vehicles ransom
  • Hackers could control multiple vehicles at once

If the wrong hacker was able to infiltrate these systems in mass, they could install malicious software that could take complete control of the vehicles. Many automakers have active bug bounties in place that pay hackers for finding these vulnerabilities and sharing them with the automaker so that they can patch their systems.

Auto pilot is so promising, and it’s something that has the potential to save lives and lead to far fewer accidents. However, from our experience in cyber security in Miami, we know firsthand how persistent hackers can be when they want to infiltrate systems.

At the moment, there are few precautions that you can take to strengthen your auto’s security to stop it from being hacked.

Manufacturers will need to focus on strengthening vehicle and auto pilot security so that the risk of the system being hacked is reduced.