Is car hacking the new car jacking?

Mon, 24 Aug 2015 Source: Carmudi.com.gh

Just last month, Wired released an article about two security specialists who commandeered a Jeep Cherokee’s onboard computers, and took control of the air conditioner, windshield wipers, and most terrifying, the accelerator and brakes.

More recently, Volkswagen lost a two-year battle to suppress files about how hi-tech criminals are able to hack into their vehicles electronically.

These news stories are leading motorists to ask the question: just how safe are modern vehicles? Carmudi, the safest way to sell or buy your car online, examines why Ghana should be concerned about car hacking.

Car hacking is a type of internet crime where criminals can seize control of a vehicle from their laptops, sometimes from across the country.

With rapidly developing in-car technologies, vehicles are increasingly vulnerable to hacks, particularly the keyless entry hack and the UConnect hack.

The keyless entry hack is a popular car exploit which works by intercepting radio signals to lock and unlock car doors.

The hacker grabs the code and resends it to the car alarm. Voila! Open. The criminals can proceed to take any valuables they find inside the car.

The UConnect hack works by gaining access to the car’s internal network via the Wi-Fi hotspot enabling the firmware to be completely re-written in order to grant access to the car’s physical controls, making the car steer wildly, speed up or slow down and even blow out its tires.

Car hacking is a growing problem in developed countries, particularly in the UK, where last year, 6000 vehicles were stolen using the keyless entry hack in London alone. But, is car hacking relevant in Ghana?

Organized Internet Crime and Car Hacking in the Emerging Markets

Car hacking is not relevant in Asia and Africa, at least for now. With an average selling price of $55,000, internet connected vehicles are out of reach for most car buyers in the emerging world.

In the Middle East, there is a stronger market for luxury vehicles. BMW, Mercedes and Porsche have all recorded sales growth. High income and buying habits mean that a significant proportion of vehicles owned by motorists in the Middle East are internet connected. Perhaps because modern cars are predominantly computer controlled, they are more difficult to hot-wire, leading organized criminals to resort to hacking.

Car theft is a real problem in Bangladesh where initiatives from the government and the private sector have failed to put a brake on vehicle crime. Some 2,751 complaints of vehicle theft were recorded at police stations across the country in 2014 against 2,597 in 2013 and 2,660 in 2012.

Elsewhere in Asia, Indonesia has overtaken China to become the number one source of cyber attack traffic, according to a report by internet monitoring company Akamai. The country accounted for 38% of hacking-related traffic, a figure that has almost doubled since the beginning of this year. Last year the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group recorded 614 cybercrime incidents, compared to 2013 where there were only 288 incidents.

In 2013, Ghana was ranked second in Africa and seventh globally for cyber crime. The Communication Minister remarked that Ghana’s present ranking among the world’s top 10 cyber crime-prone countries is “a disincentive to investment in the country’s ICT sector.” The situation is just as bad in Nigeria, which suffered a $2.5 billion loss as a direct result of internet crime.

“Africa is experiencing a significant level of internet crime and it looks set to continue growing. With more than 49 million cyber-attacks recorded on the continent in the first quarter of last year, we can see the seriousness of the issue”, said Karl-Johan Sturesson, Head, Africa Region, Carmudi.

He added “Car hacking is a form of internet crime, but we think it is irrelevant in the region, for the moment. Motorists own fairly old vehicle models.”

Columnist: Carmudi.com.gh