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Hackers Could Abuse Car Navigation Systems

Hackers could next target in-car route-planning apparatus after researchers' discover vulnerability in wireless data. Italian researchers now know how to remotely peek inside such systems and access the message the car gives to its driver and instructs him/her where to go.

Given this the navigation systems based upon satellite equipment are at risk because they employ RDS-TMC (Radio Data System-Traffic Message Channel) to get traffic broadcasts & emergency communication. There is wide deployment of this technology across Europe and North America, according to Andrea Barisani, who's the chief security engineer for Inverse Path. The statement appeared in UN STRUNG on March 28, 2007.

Barisani and hardware hacker of Inverse Path Daniele Bianco constructed tools that allowed an attacker to push in false emails to the satellite-based navigation system. The tools could also allow the hacker to initiate a denial-of-service (DoS) attack.

The technology is devoid of any identification system of the source of the traffic messages so a hacker could conveniently send a fake message say of a road blockage, rerouting the driver to another street, Barisani says. The attacker could even flood the system with large number of messages and launch a denial-of-service that could bring down not only the navigation system of the car but also the climate control equipment and stereo as well, says he.

Barisani therefore indicates the various ways that a culprit could abuse navigation systems. One could be diverting someone to an abandoned road and ambushing the person there. There could also be a creation of a traffic-jam by sending a related message leading everyone to a narrow road. Such abuses could also deliver false terror or alarms.

Meanwhile some technologies are emerging for car-navigation systems, which could protect drivers to a certain extent. One is by the TPEG (Transport Protocol Experts Group) that's building an advanced system to the RDS that may be carried over digital binary or XML format. Although it doesn't identify the source, but to inject the traffic into digital format makes it difficult for an attacker, according to Barisani.

Barisani and Bianco think they will present their complete research at the CanSecWest conference on security in Vancouver in April 2007.

Related article: Hackers Redirect Windows Live Search to Malicious Sites

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