Is The CIA Now Using Hit-Cars? Only The Agency Knows (And They Are Not Telling)
If you were to listen to Wikileaks, the car in your driveway is out to do you harm. That’s right, some lowlife hacker is supposed to be sitting in front of a computer screen right now inputting the strings of code that will:
- Lock the doors
- Turn off the airbags
- Disable the brakes
- Shut down the engine
Finally, the exploit is ready to deploy. So, the bad guy gets ready to plant the nasty code in your car. Because he’s a distance away, he hacks his way into the local cell system and finds the computer address of your vehicle’s infotainment array and uploads the hack. Now your car is his, and he’s ready to wreak his havoc.
The master-hacker next gets into the local traffic cam system and waits until just the right setup occurs so he can do maximum damage to you and your car. His plan involves an 18-wheeler, the highway, and your car. Watching the traffic cams, he waits until the right moment to activate the exploit.
First, the engine shuts off as you blink in amazement and second, the airbag indicators light up telling you the airbags are off. Third, you try pressing the brakes, and there’s nothing but the brake warning light. By this time, your car has slowed enough, so you think of jumping out, but the exploit activates the doorlocks, and they don’t respond.
Looking up, you see you have a serious problem — the 18-wheeler is about to demolish your car. Oops, it is a bit too late; the 18-wheeler mangles your car beyond recognition; it is little more than a scrunched up cube of the car with you — or someone else — in the middle.
While this may sound like the plot of a late night SciFy intrigue film, there may be more to it than you think. Wikileaks most recent data dump shows that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has studied using automotive computer systems to knock off U.S. enemies neatly. It makes sense, in a weird sort of way. Using this method, there’s no footprint or paper trail; it’s neat and quick.
Has it been used? Some point to the death of an investigative journalist in 2013. His Mercedes-Benz was reported to have sped up drastically at the last moment so that when it hit the tree that demolished it, the engine was launched deep into the woods. No one could find a plausible cause for the crash. Was it a hack-hit, so to speak? No one is saying.
Is this within the realm of possibility? On average, today’s car has between a dozen and 16 computer systems listening to the CAN (Car Area Network). Controlled systems range from the brakes, transmission, exhaust, emissions, heating and cooling, infotainment, navigation and more. In other words, cars are four-wheeled computers that can access the internet. That one feature, internet access, makes cars vulnerable to hackers. How vulnerable are they? Two white hat researchers, working with Wired Magazine and Fiat Chrysler Autos (FCA), hacked and took over control of a Jeep Grand Cherokee from a distance of more 10 miles. The research team caused the brakes to engage, turned off the ignition, accessed the infotainment cluster and more. The researchers notified FCA of the problems. FCA recalled more than 1 million Grand Cherokees to fix the problem. There have been other reports of car-hacking, as well, usually with the aim of pointing out flaws that need repair.
The Washington Post, shortly after the Wikileaks release, looked into the potentials of hit-hacking and while the newspaper said it was possible, they concluded it was unlikely to occur, quite unlikely.
Categories: Automotive News