Could Our Cars Become the Next Target for Computer Hackers?

Cars today come loaded with computer systems designed to prevent crashes and assist with parallel parking, often equipped with dashboards and touch screens rivaling most tablets. But as our vehicles become smarter, many in the tech industry worry they could also present a tempting target for hackers.

Your Car is Already a Computer

Auto manufacturers have been using computer monitoring systems in vehicles since the 1970’s, controlling things like the timing of the ignition spark and fuel injection into the carburetor. In the 80’s and 90’s, on-board diagnostic (OBD) systems used sensors throughout the vehicle to alert drivers and mechanics alike to problems within the vehicle. In just a few years vehicle technology has rocketed well past the point of what most people thought impossible decades ago. Today’s systems not only utilize high-tech computers, but are also beginning to take advantage of the wireless and network connectivity used by your smartphone.

Improved Vehicle Technology Increases Hacker Interest

Unfortunately our vehicles’ increased connectivity has captured the attention of would-be hackers around the world. Previously, a car’s computer operated in a closed off world, safe from outside interference without physically hooking up a computer to the OBD system. Many auto experts now worry that our vehicle’s new wireless and Bluetooth capabilities may allow hackers to breach a car’s computer system from anywhere on the planet. While no one has accomplished this yet, computer safety groups are pleading with auto manufacturers to increase the level of security guarding a vehicle’s digital nerve center, especially those systems responsible for functions like braking and steering.

Auto Manufacturers Must Create Safe Cars

Both the federal government and private researchers are working hard to develop technology to prevent unauthorized access to vehicle computers. While these efforts have been successful for now, it is not unthinkable to believe that these safety precautions may not be enough in the future.