Consumer Watchdog's report recommends that, as soon as possible, every connected car come with an Internet kill-switch that physically disconnects the Internet from safety-critical systems. It concludes that future designs should completely isolate safety-critical systems from infotainment systems connected to the Internet or other networks.
A group of more than 20 car industry engineers and insiders helped with the preparation of the report, but they remain anonymous for fear of losing their jobs. The whistleblowers appointed a spokesperson who can be seen in silhouette in this full video answering questions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZbZzwl4828&feature=youtu.be.
These are among the main findings of the group's five month investigation with car industry technologists:
- Most connected vehicles share the same vulnerability. The head unit (sometimes called the infotainment system) is connected to the Internet through a cellular connection and also to the vehicle's CAN (Controller Area Network) buses. This technology dating to the 1980s links the vehicle's most critical systems, such as the engine and the brakes. Experts agree that connecting safety-critical components to the Internet through a complex information and entertainment device is a security flaw. This design allows hackers to control a vehicle's operations and take it over from across the Internet.
- By 2022, no less than two-thirds of new cars on American roads will have online connections to the cars' safety-critical system, putting them at risk of deadly hacks. Car makers have many economic motivations to connect vehicles to the Internet – from saving money on recalls by updating vehicle software over-the-air to collecting valuable data on how fast we drive to where we shop. While they market flashy new features, such as remotely starting cars from smartphones, technologists report the companies have not prepared for the grave security implications of a connected car fleet.