Home > Dystopia, Links, Skepticism, Technology > Interesting Links: Aug 11, 2015

Interesting Links: Aug 11, 2015

Here are links to a few interesting news articles I came across recently. They are about the security problems inherent in electronic devices.

Link 1: Meet RollJam, the $30 device that jimmies car and garage doors

Now, serial hacker Samy Kamkar has devised RollJam, a $30 device that steals the secret codes so attackers can use them to gain unauthorized access to a car or garage. It works against a variety of market-leading chips, including the KeeLoq access control system from Microchip Technology Inc. and the High Security Rolling Code generator made by National Semiconductor. RollJam is capable of opening electronic locks on cars from Chrysler, Daewoo, Fiat, GM, Honda, Toyota, Volvo, Volkswagen Group, Clifford, Shurlok, and Jaguar. It also works against a variety of garage-door openers, including the rolling code garage door opener made by King Cobra.

RollJam uses a clever hack to exploit this system whenever it’s within range of a key and lock. The device contains two radios. The first jams the airwaves to prevent the lock from receiving the rolling code sent by the electronic key. Since the car or garage door doesn’t unlock, a user almost certainly will press the lock or unlock button again. Once RollJam has collected the latter rolling code, it uses the second radio to broadcast the earlier rolling code to the lock. RollJam then stores the latter rolling code. Because the code was never received by the lock, it remains valid. By replaying it later—say, after the car owner has locked the car and walked away—RollJam is able to unlock the car or garage.

Link 2: Hackers Cut a Corvette’s Brakes Via a Common Car Gadget

At the Usenix security conference today, a group of researchers from the University of California at San Diego plan to reveal a technique they could have used to wirelessly hack into any of thousands of vehicles through a tiny commercial device: A 2-inch-square gadget that’s designed to be plugged into cars’ and trucks’ dashboards and used by insurance firms and trucking fleets to monitor vehicles’ location, speed and efficiency. By sending carefully crafted SMS messages to one of those cheap dongles connected to the dashboard of a Corvette, the researchers were able to transmit commands to the car’s CAN bus—the internal network that controls its physical driving components—turning on the Corvette’s windshield wipers and even enabling or disabling its brakes.

“We acquired some of these things, reverse engineered them, and along the way found that they had a whole bunch of security deficiencies,” says Stefan Savage, the University of California at San Diego computer security professor who led the project. The result, he says, is that the dongles “provide multiple ways to remotely…control just about anything on the vehicle they were connected to.” In the video below, the researchers demonstrate their proof-of-concept attacks on a 2013 Corvette, messing with its windshield wipers and both activating and cutting its brakes. Though the researchers say their Corvette brake tricks only worked at low speeds due to limitations in the automated computer functions of the vehicle, they say they could have easily adapted their attack for practically any other modern vehicle and hijacked other critical components like locks, steering or transmission, too.

Link 3: Why ‘Smart’ Objects May Be a Dumb Idea

A fridge that puts milk on your shopping list when you run low. A safe that tallies the cash that is placed in it. A sniper rifle equipped with advanced computer technology for improved accuracy. A car that lets you stream music from the Internet.All of these innovations sound great, until you learn the risks that this type of connectivity carries. Recently, two security researchers, sitting on a couch and armed only with laptops, remotely took over a Chrysler Jeep Cherokee speeding along the highway, shutting down its engine as an 18-wheeler truck rushed toward it. They did this all while a Wired reporter was driving the car. Their expertise would allow them to hack any Jeep as long as they knew the car’s I.P. address, its network address on the Internet. They turned the Jeep’s entertainment dashboard into a gateway to the car’s steering, brakes and transmission.

The Internet of Things is also a privacy nightmare. Databases that already have too much information about us will now be bursting with data on the places we’ve driven, the food we’ve purchased and more. Last week, at Def Con, the annual information security conference, researchers set up an Internet of Things village to show how they could hack everyday objects like baby monitors, thermostats and security cameras. Connecting everyday objects introduces new risks if done at mass scale. Take that smart refrigerator. If a single fridge malfunctions, it’s a hassle. However, if the fridge’s computer is connected to its motor, a software bug or hack could “brick” millions of them all at once — turning them into plastic pantries with heavy doors.

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