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Even today's cars are not immune from hacking

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Sometimes the motion pictures can, indirectly, paint the way to the future! Do you remember this famous line: “If you build it, he will come”? The motion picture was Field of Dreams. It actually celebrated the farmer who built the non-productive baseball diamond on land that once was productive farmland.

Indeed, his father, who had passed on when he was a little boy, did show up and the family – from both sides – was made whole again. It's a great ending to the motion picture and illustrates what faith can mean in any community.

Now, look at the car industry, for a moment. It is at a crossroads, of sorts. As we approach the 2016 model year, the next year a major decision over mileage is scheduled to be announced, the Administration has raised the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) by nearly 20 percent. Think about what this means. It means that:

Cars and light trucks will achieve a CAFE average of 34.1 mpg. Think about this, for a moment, just a few years ago, the industry was sitting in hearings in front of the Joint Transportation Committee, saying they couldn't do enough to make the mileage figures the President sought. They have done that and, in many cases, have surpassed the goal.

The cars on today's assembly lines are some of the most technologically complex vehicles that have every been produced.

The cars on today's assembly lines have raised the board on the number of CPUs on board. While most base vehicles have between 60 and 70 micro-controller available to handle all the chores they are called up on to handle. On some of the more exotic vehicle line, the number of micro-controllers has hit the 400-mark. That is a huge increase in technical complexity.

Waiting in the wings

The increase in micro-controller use has meant that the number of networks within a vehicle has increased many fold. When hearing that, the hacker community's collective ears perk up as they begin to think of ways that they can access the rolling networks on today's highways. However, just waiting in the wings is a new form of hacking, one that takes advantage

It is giving many administrators in Washington many sleepless nights as they worry about the first vehicles that may be hacked. You see, anything that is networked can be hacked. At the moment, there are only three ways to hack a car:

1. Using the standard computer outlet through which most states carry out their inspections. Known as the OBD-II, this outlet “talks” with any manufacturer's or state's diagnostic device and returns a complete look at the car.

2. Using the car's cellular phone system

3. Using the car's Bluetooth system

There is actually one more that most auto manufacturers, though they brag about it in their advertising, hope no one hears the bragging because it gives a hacker absolute access to the vehicle's Intranet. And, by controlling the Intranet, the vehicle can be turned into a bot quite quickly (bot is short for robot that the hacker can then use to send out spam messages or phishing messages as these devices look at the mail on the machine and then base their work on that list.

Best place to attack

Not that this will be occurring imminently, although it might be quicker than drivers might suspect. In this network hack, the researchers tried to use the OBD-II computer interface, found just to the right or left of the steering wheel column. The pair of researchers at the Center for Automatic Embedded Security (CAES), using their laptops, were able to get into the vehicle's computer system after several weeks trying and they found they could control the vehicle's major systems

Note, here, though that while this may be the best point of attack, it is quite unlikely that a vehicle owner will allow a car thief or hacker access to his or her vehicle for the amount of time it would take to take over the network.

The key here, though, would be patience. It would also involve using the coding that came before so that the hacked code could be inserted through the OBD-II and it would then become part of the basic system. Later on, once the bad code is ready, it could be blast mailed to millions of machines, on some of which it would survive and likely be opened.

Real hacker ways

The real hackers out there, though, would never commit themselves to tipping their hands and their identities, however, they have their ways. The first way would be attacking through network ID of the cellphone system (each system in any computer system carries a unique ID through which it is identified to the system). By using this piece of information, the hacker could then replicated the device's ID number and could then make the hack look, for all the world, as if it was part of the base system, hackers told Fox News.

Since it is now part of the base system and since the computer or its network peripherals were to see it, they would have no choice but to allow it safe passage through the system. In the end, the hacker would have won because his code is the code the system thinks is good. When it happened, only one, rather elderly gentleman, who had made it to Belgium, was to comment on the copy.

By the same token, using the Bluetooth frequency range would allow he user to see how the original hacker had planned to use this system. Interestingly, though, using Bluetooth, while somewhat more innovative, is a step backward because of the limited number of frequencies available for its use (Bluetooth is a radio-frequency-based utility and there is just so much bandwidth available before the Bluetooth system comes to a grinding halt.)

Of more importance is the opening of WiFi to vehicles. Using the WiFi universe, you will find there are at least 10 pairs of frequencies through which you can plunge to see where the hacked code is and fix it to your needs and then recompile and use it).

No good comes of hacking

With a totally electronic car, one can find very little good that comes from hacking. Of course, it the hacker is working toward the safety side of things and makes the right fixes for safety. However, one has to remember that most hacking has not good intent behind it. The only thing it has going for it is this: it shows the orignal code developer where the issues are