Modern hi-tech cars risk being hacked and turned into remotely controlled ‘bombs on wheels’ unless more is done to vet garage mechanics who service them, motor industry chiefs warned.
Failure to have properly qualified and regulated technicians creates security flaws that leave connected vehicles vulnerable to cyber-terrorists and criminals with evil intent, according to the respected Institute of the Motor Industry.
The warning echoes scenes in the latest blockbuster Fast and the Furious film and the risk will intensify with the move towards greater self-driving autonomous technology in vehicles, said the professional body.
Modern cars already feature self-braking, self-parking and self-steering lane-control functions and technology is moving rapidly towards more features.
The weakest link compromising in-car security is un-vetted garage staff with access to a car’s on-board computer system, the industry’s professional body concluded.
The scenario has chilling echoes of the new The Fate of the Furious movie (the eighth in the Fast and the Furious franchise) starring Charlize Theron as cyber-terrorist Cipher who hacks dozens of self-driving cars to crash them in scenes of havoc in New York.
A spokesman for the IMI said: ‘It’s a serious situation. Cars could be turned into bombs on wheels that are remotely controlled by terrorists. You don’t have to have a terrorist on board. It’s risk free to them. This our main concern.’
In 2015 a pair of cyber-security experts remotely hacked into a 2014 Jeep Cherokee.
Infiltrating the car via the entertainment system, they were able to disable some of the 4X4’s engine functions and interior controls such as air conditioning, locks and radio. It led parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to recall 1.4million vehicles.
IMI chief executive Steve Nash said: ‘Computer diagnostics are becoming commonplace in the motor industry today but the bulk of the work in servicing is still of a mechanical nature.
‘The technological revolution in the automotive sector is shifting and broadening the skills needed by a maintenance technician to that of a systems analyst.’
He warned: ‘Car technology will continue to develop which means it’s more important than ever that vehicle technicians have not only the mechanical skills but the ICT skills to be able to service and maintain these vehicles in the safest possible way with an acute awareness of their legal and ethical responsibilities when accessing vehicle data.’