A new car model illustrates the security breaches of autonomous vehicles. How safe are they after all?

Every new generation of cars comes with technologies that expose new safety risks. But in the case of autonomous cars there is no precedent, the dangers being little studied, experts suggest in a new study.

Imagine three different scenarios:

  1. The stand-alone car could take you to an isolated place, although the destination is your home.
  2. You would send a message to your car to came get you from work, but you receive a message back: “Send $200 in Bitcoin to this account and I’ll be there”.
  3. You put your seat belt and head out for your physician appointment, but the car does not leave the road, it knows that a hacker has taken control, and the only safe destination is the one to your house.

These three scenarios illustrate the cyber security breaches that need to be resolved before the autonomous cars are popular. A recent paper introduces a tool called the Mcity Threat Identification Model that could help scientists explore the potential and seriousness of potential dangers. The new model contains a pattern that can be considered: the attacker’s skill level, the vulnerability of the vehicle system, the way the attacker could access it, the repercussions, including the loss of privacy, safety and money.

Specialists believe the tool is the first of its kind to focus on autonomous cars. Andre Weimerskirch, lead author of the study believes that their instrument focuses on solving the most important issues and the effective cyber security modeling and also on creating an effective approach to making secure autonomous vehicles.

The report warns that autonomous vehicles will face common threats but also new ones. They will be vulnerable to those who frequently destroy computerized networks, such as hackers who steal personal or financial information. Also, increasing the popularity of autonomous vehicles will lead to the emergence of new types of hackers, criminals who will demand redemption for the vehicle or the passenger inside.

To demonstrate the capabilities of the new model, specialists have used it to examine the vulnerabilities of automated parking systems. They have determined that the possible attacks include the deactivation of parking sensors, or in the second case the hackers could slam the automatic car parking signal to steal the vehicle.

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