In today’s day and age, cars are no longer merely the mode of transportation they were 50 years ago. Instead, they’ve become Internet-connected entertainment machines as well as complex computers. And like other complex computers, they are vulnerable to viruses and malware. But the surprising twist on this automobile virus vulneravility is the delivery method developed for this malware: simple .mp3 files; meaning, all it takes to gain complete control over a car is an audio CD.
Researchers at University of California, San Diego and the University of Washington were experimenting with various ways of hacking a car: through bluetooth, the cellular network and direct cable connections; now they’ve found that .mp3 files are just as effective at infiltrating a car’s computer.
The attack consists of something as simple as adding extra code to a digital music file and turning the burned CD into a Trojan horse. When played on the car’s stereo, the song would attack the car stereo’s firmware and then spread into other components of the car, giving hackers access to GPS data, Vehicle Identification numbers, and control over systems like locks, brakes and the engine as a whole.
What makes this attack even more dangerous is that since it is hidden in something as innocent as an .mp3 file, it can easily and swiftly spread throughout the world as people download music on file sharing websites without ever raising any suspicion.
“It’s hard to think of something more innocuous than a song,” said Stefan Savage, a professor at the University of California.
The researchers are saying, however, that although it is possible to do, this type of attack will not become as common as the malware we get on our PCs since every car model’s computer is different and would require a specialized code to be created for every attack. But just by knowing that something like that is possible makes you wonder what else can be done to the technology that we come to rely on so much.