Car Hacking
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Basic Information

Modern cars are fairly heavily computerised … everything seems to have a little microprocessor in it and these are more or less networked together by default. And now a lot of them are Wi-Fi enabled as well. Apparently their electronic security sucks.

People have now started to notice that, subject to having enough hacking skill, it should be entirely possible to take remote control of a modern car, lock the doors, disable the brakes and turn the accelerator up to full power - or do various other things highly likely to result in a high speed crash. Since many modern cars also lack manual ignition and handbrakes the driver in such a situation is likely to be completely helpless. Drive-by-wire steering promises to make this even worse given that it removes any physical connection between what you do with the steering wheel and what the wheels do. Also, if the manufacturer has provided built in communications … or networked them into the car … then you can't even call for help.

For best effect, the attack should be delivered in real time, observed from a neighbouring vehicle or via traffic cameras so that you are able to crash to best effect - over accelerating when the driver can still force the car into a muddy field or somewhere else relatively safe to crash will be less effective than firing them off the side of an elevated road, under a passing train, into heavy traffic or into a robust building. Alternatively, they could be driven over their spouse, child or other person on their own property or driven at people who are liable to respond violently.

Of course, come the driverless car, this promises to become even more of a problem - not only can you crash someone, you could also, potentially, redirect their car to a place of your choosing without them being able to do much about it.

Given some known government schemes to interfere with people's vehicles remotely, it might not be excessively paranoid to wonder if at least some of this isn't intentional.


An online essay on the topic from Ars Technica
And a sooner or later someone was going to try it out...

See Also

EU has secret plan for police to remote stop cars … because not all crime is free enterprise… some of it robs you twice.

1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Likely to be commonplace in cyberpunk settings, both the hijacking and the crashing.
  • If you can start the car remotely, this might a good way to steal a driverless car … alternatively you may just divert the car when it is underway and then keep … or dispose of … the driver as you prefer.
  • In the immediate future, a good method to subtly murder someone - might be hard to prove that the crash didn't result from driver error, mechanical failure or suicide.
    • Might be a method of choice for dystopic governments to dispose of people.
  • Adventure hook might be seeing a car go racing past with the driver frantically banging on the windows and screaming.
  • Note that not even good IT security can keep you safe from this … just because your firewall is fully updated, doesn't mean the HGV behind you can't be hacked and driven into you.
    • Could be especially fun to find that your vehicle has been 'jacked to kill someone else…
    • Anyone remember Duel?
    • For investigating police (or others) … even if one of the vehicles was hacked … who was the target? Was it the person in the hacked machine or the one it crashed into? Bonus points if you pile up a heavily loaded motorway and do your killing Herr Starr1 style.
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