What if you could purchase software that let you unlock your car door and start the engine using your mobile phone? Sounds awesome, right? The good news is this software does exist, the most popular of which is the OnStar RemoteLink app, which can be used with many late-model General Motors vehicles. The bad news? In an age where cyber crime is continuously being catapulted to the next level, and car theft is an ever-increasing concern, perhaps this is not the brightest idea.
Security researchers Don Bailey and Mathew Solnik of iSec Partners said they have figured out the protocols that some of these software makers use to remote control cars, and they have created a video demonstrating how they were able to unlock a car and turn it on using a laptop. Bailey said it only took them a couple of hours to figure out how to do this.
The technique "war texting” is based on another hacking technique called "war driving” – driving around cities searching for data on wireless networks. Although war texting is very technically complex, and would require a great deal of technical know-how (criminals would first have to identify cars using these mobile applications and then figure out how to connect with them), hackers are getting smarter and sneakier every day and we shouldn’t assume that this is beyond their realm of capability.
Bailey discussed this issue back in August at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, explaining that it is related to a more widespread problem. With cool new mobile devices and networking capabilities popping up every day, we often get caught up in the excitement and overlook the security side of things, which can end in disaster.
Our advice? Don’t jump on the latest technology band-wagon as soon as it comes around. Give that fancy new gadget you’ve been eyeing some time for other consumers, researchers and developers to work out all of the bugs before you go sinking all of your money into it. A different (but related) example of this was discussed a few issues back, when we looked at the plummeting prices of fancy television sets and all of the people who are now kicking themselves for buying them the second they came out. As the old saying goes, slow and steady wins the race.