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Cars Can Be Hacked by Usage-based Insurance Discount Trackers

Student engineers from the University of California, San Diego, have discovered that cars can be hacked by tapping into one of the plug-in usage-based insurance tracking devices, supplied by some insurance companies...
August 19, 2015

Student engineers from the University of California, San Diego, have discovered that cars can be hacked by tapping into one of the plug-in usage-based insurance (UBI) tracking devices, supplied by some insurance companies.

In some cases, hackers can send a text message—and disable a car's brakes. It's a relatively simple hack. And while researchers only tested one type of device, they say it raises serious questions about how dangerous it is to use them at all. Stefan Savage, the college engineering professor who oversaw the research project, said, "We take these devices far too lightly. This is a class of device that should be considered the same way we consider a medical device. It's a dangerous object that needs to be designed with care."

Last month, another group of security researchers demonstrated how Chryslers can be hacked over the Internet. Their research forced Chrysler to recall 1.4 million cars. Charlie Miller, one of the two Chrysler hacking researchers, said the tracking devices are dangerous. "You're essentially giving someone direct connection to your vehicle's network. Don't plug things into that port," he advised.

Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) recently introduced a bill that would require "all entry points" for cars sold in this country to "be equipped with reasonable measures to protect against hacking attacks."

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