Schlagwort-Archive: autonomous vehicles

Securing Driverless Cars From Hackers Is Hard, according to Charlie Miller, Ex-NSA’s Tailored Access Operations Hacker

Securing Driverless Cars From Hackers Is Hard. Ask the Ex-Uber Guy Who Protects Them

Two years ago, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek pulled off a demonstration that shook the auto industry, remotely hacking a Jeep Cherokee via its internet connection to paralyze it on a highway. Since then, the two security researchers have been quietly working for Uber, helping the startup secure its experimental self-driving cars against exactly the sort of attack they proved was possible on a traditional one. Now, Miller has moved on, and he’s ready to broadcast a message to the automotive industry: Securing autonomous cars from hackers is a very difficult problem. It’s time to get serious about solving it.

Last month, Miller left Uber for a position at Chinese competitor Didi, a startup that’s just now beginning its own autonomous ridesharing project. In his first post-Uber interview, Miller talked to WIRED about what he learned in those 19 months at the company—namely that driverless taxis pose a security challenge that goes well beyond even those faced by the rest of the connected car industry.

Miller couldn’t talk about any of the specifics of his research at Uber; he says he moved to Didi in part because the company has allowed him to speak more openly about car hacking. But he warns that before self-driving taxis can become a reality, the vehicles’ architects will need to consider everything from the vast array of automation in driverless cars that can be remotely hijacked, to the possibility that passengers themselves could use their physical access to sabotage an unmanned vehicle.

“Autonomous vehicles are at the apex of all the terrible things that can go wrong,” says Miller, who spent years on the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations team of elite hackers before stints at Twitter and Uber. “Cars are already insecure, and you’re adding a bunch of sensors and computers that are controlling them…If a bad guy gets control of that, it’s going to be even worse.”

At A Computer’s Mercy

In a series of experiments starting in 2013, Miller and Valasek showed that a hacker with either wired or over-the-internet access to a vehicle—including a Toyota Prius, Ford Escape, and a Jeep Cherokee—could disable or slam on a victim’s brakes, turn the steering wheel, or, in some cases, cause unintended acceleration. But to trigger almost all those attacks, Miller and Valasek had to exploit vehicles’ existing automated features. They used the Prius’ collision avoidance system to apply its brakes, and the Jeep’s cruise control feature to accelerate it. To turn the Jeep’s steering wheel, they tricked it into thinking it was parking itself—even if it was moving at 80 miles per hour.

Their car-hacking hijinks, in other words, were limited to the few functions a vehicle’s computer controls. In a driverless car, the computer controls everything. “In an autonomous vehicle, the computer can apply the brakes and turn the steering wheel any amount, at any speed,” Miller says. “The computers are even more in charge.”

An alert driver could also override many of the attacks Miller and Valasek demonstrated on traditional cars: Tap the brakes and that cruise control acceleration immediately ceases. Even the steering wheel attacks could be easily overcome if the driver wrests control of the wheel. When the passenger isn’t in the driver’s seat—or there is no steering wheel or brake pedal—no such manual override exists. “No matter what we did in the past, the human had a chance to control the car. But if you’re sitting in the backseat, that’s a whole different story,” says Miller. “You’re totally at the mercy of the vehicle.”

Hackers Take Rides, Too

A driverless car that’s used as a taxi, Miller points out, poses even more potential problems. In that situation, every passenger has to be considered a potential threat. Security researchers have shown that merely plugging an internet-connected gadget into a car’s OBD2 port—a ubiquitous outlet under its dashboard—can offer a remote attacker an entry point into the vehicle’s most sensitive systems. (Researchers at the University of California at San Diego showed in 2015 that they could take control of a Corvette’s brakes via a common OBD2 dongle distributed by insurance companies—including one that partnered with Uber.)

“There’s going to be someone you don’t necessarily trust sitting in your car for an extended period of time,” says Miller. “The OBD2 port is something that’s pretty easy for a passenger to plug something into and then hop out, and then they have access to your vehicle’s sensitive network.”

Permanently plugging that port is illegal under federal regulations, Miller says. He suggests ridesharing companies that use driverless cars could cover it with tamper-evident tape. But even then, they might only be able to narrow down which passenger could have sabotaged a vehicle to a certain day or week. A more comprehensive fix would mean securing the vehicle’s software so that not even a malicious hacker with full physical access to its network would be able to hack it—a challenge Miller says only a few highly locked-down products like an iPhone or Chromebook can pass.

“It’s definitely a hard problem,” he says.

Deep Fixes

Miller argues that solving autonomous vehicles’ security flaws will require some fundamental changes to their security architecture. Their internet-connected computers, for instance, will need “codesigning,” a measure that ensures they only run trusted code signed with a certain cryptographic key. Today only Tesla has talked publicly about implementing that feature. Cars’ internal networks will need better internal segmentation and authentication, so that critical components don’t blindly follow commands from the OBD2 port. They need intrusion detection systems that can alert the driver—or rider—when something anomalous happens on the cars’ internal networks. (Miller and Valasek designed one such prototype.) And to prevent hackers from getting an initial, remote foothold, cars need to limit their “attack surface,” any services that might accept malicious data sent over the internet.

Complicating those fixes? Companies like Uber and Didi don’t even make the cars they use, but instead have to bolt on any added security after the fact. “They’re getting a car that already has some attack surface, some vulnerabilities, and a lot of software they don’t have any control over, and then trying to make that into something secure,” says Miller. “That’s really hard.”

That means solving autonomous vehicles’ security nightmares will require far more open conversation and cooperation among companies. That’s part of why Miller left Uber, he says: He wants the freedom to speak more openly within the industry. “I want to talk about how we’re securing cars and the scary things we see, instead of designing these things in private and hoping that we all know what we’re doing,” he says.

Car hacking, fortunately, remains largely a concern for the future: No car has yet been digitally hijacked in a documented, malicious case. But that means now’s the time to work on the problem, Miller says, before cars become more automated and make the problem far more real. “We have some time to build up these security measures and get them right before something happens,” says Miller. “And that’s why I’m doing this.”


The social dilemma of autonomous vehicles

Here is the MIT Full Report posted in Science Magazine:

Ethical question leaves potential buyers torn over self-driving cars, study says

Faced with two deadly options the public want driverless vehicles to crash rather than hurt pedestrians – unless the vehicle in question is theirs

A self-driving Lexus SUV, operated by Google, after colliding with a public bus in Mountain View, California, in February 2016.
A self-driving Lexus SUV, operated by Google, after colliding with a public bus in Mountain View, California, in February 2016. Photograph: AP

In catch-22 traffic emergencies where there are only two deadly options, people generally want a self-driving vehicle to, for example, avoid a group of pedestrians and instead slam itself and its passengers into a wall, a new study says. But they would rather not be travelling in a car designed to do that.

The findings of the study, released on Thursday in the journal Science, highlight just how difficult it may be for auto companies to market those cars to a public that tends to contradict itself.

“People want to live a world in which everybody owns driverless cars that minimize casualties, but they want their own car to protect them at all costs,” Iyad Rahwan, a co-author of the study and a professor at MIT, said. “And car makers who offer such cars will sell more cars, but if everybody thinks this way then we end up in a world in which every car will look after its own passenger’s safety … and society as a whole is worse off.”

Through a series of online surveys, the authors found that people generally approve of cars that sacrifice their passengers for the greater good, such as sparing a group of pedestrians, and would like others to buy those cars, but they themselves would prefer to ride in a car that protects its passengers at all cost.

Several people working on bringing self-driving cars to market said that while the philosophical and ethical question over the two programming options is important to consider, real-life situations would be far more complex.

Brian Lathrop, a cognitive scientist who works on Volkswagen’s self-driving cars project, stressed that in real life there are likelihoods and contingencies that the academic example leaves out.

“You have to make a decision that the occupant in the vehicle is always going to be safer than the pedestrians, because they’re in a 3,000lb steel cage with all the other safety features,” said Lathrop, who was not involved in the new study.

So in a situation in which a car needs to, say, slam into a tree to avoid hitting a group of pedestrians, “obviously, you would choose to program it to go into the tree,” he said.

A spokesman for Google, whose self-driving car technology is generally seen as being the furthest along, suggested that asking about hypothetical scenarios might ignore the more important question of how to avoid deadly situations in the first place.

The problem seems to be how to get people to trust cars to consistently do the right thing if we’re not even sure we want them to do what we think is the right thing.

The study’s authors argue that since self-driving cars are expected to drastically reduce traffic fatalities, a delay in adopting the new technology could itself be deadly. Regulations requiring self-driving cars to sacrifice their passengers could move things forward, they write. But, in another catch-22, forcing the self-sacrificing programming could actually delay widespread adoption by consumers.

Susan Anderson, an ethicist at the University of Connecticut, and her husband and research partner, Michael Anderson, a computer science professor at the University of Hartford, believe the cars will be able to make the right call.

“We do believe that properly programmed machines are likely to make decisions that are more ethically justifiable than humans,” they said in an email. “Also, properly programmed self-driving cars should have information that humans may not readily have,” including precise stopping distance, whether to swerve or brake, or the likelihood of degree of harm.

How to get those cars “properly programmed”? The Andersons, who were not involved in the study, suggest having the cars learn from or be given “general ethical principles from applied ethicists”.

Young people value access over ownership

The smartphone generation will be perfectly happy not dealing with the expense and hassle of car ownership — why would they when they can order up an autonomous Zipcar with a tap on their iPhone X?

Zitat aus:

Self-Driving Cars

Google Self-Driving Car (photo by Flickr user MarkDoliner, CC Licensed)

Google Self-Driving Car (photo by Flickr user MarkDoliner, CC Licensed)


Over the past few years, there has been steady progress in the development of self-driving automobiles, and it’s pretty clear that we’re finally on the cusp of this technology going mainstream. As far as I’m concerned, driving is a waste of time, energy, and human life, so I, for one, welcome our autonomous vehicular overlords.

Signs of Change

The assertion that self-driving cars are on the verge of becoming a practical reality may seem a little bold, but the signs are clearly there. For example, California recently legalized autonomous vehicles, making them now legal in three states (Nevada and Florida are the other two). In fact, in relation to this, Bernard Lu, an attorney for the California Department of Motor Vehicles even went so far as to state that “The technology is ahead of the law in many areas” — and that was back in 2010.

And it’s not just some random GeekDad blogger that considers self-driving vehicles to be a near-term probability. GM predicts partially autonomous vehicles by 2015 and fully autonomous vehicles by 2020. Looking even further ahead, the IEEE predicts that 75% of vehices will be fully autonomous by 2040.

Simply put, the technology required to make self-driving cars a reality already exists right now. It’s currently expensive, but the cost will drop as economies of scale kick in.

The Tech Behind It

So what is the tech that makes autonomous vehicles possible? Well, the poster child for self-driving cars is definitely Google’s ongoing Driverless Car project. At last tally, the Google fleet has driven accident-free for over 300,000 miles (480,000 km), making it clear that the concept is completely viable. Each Google Driverless car is equipped with GPS, radar, video cameras, lidar (laser radar), and a lot of real-time computing power. Basic navigation relies on maps and GPS, with live sensor input to react to real-time changes. The entire setup costs about $150,000, which is obviously well beyond the reach of 99% of drivers, but, as mentioned above, this cost will scale down readily.

Another emerging technology that figures prominently in the future of autonomous vehicles is the concept of vehicular communication systems. Obviously vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication will make it possible to dynamically route traffic in such a way as to maximize flow and minimize travel times. Say good-bye to traffic jams and road rage, kids.

Why it Will Be Great

In addition to no more traffic jams, self-driving cars promise many other benefits:

  • Fewer traffic collisions (computers are better than humans at focused, repetitive tasks such as driving)
  • Increased roadway capacity and reduced traffic congestion (V2V and V2I make dynamic traffic routing possible)
  • Relief of vehicle occupants from driving chores (you can sleep, watch a movie, read a book, knit a pair of socks, etc. instead of wasting time behind the wheel)
  • Everyone can enjoy the benefits of travel regardless of their physical abilities, age, or other current restrictions (and, yes, that means no more drunk drivers and innocent victims)
  • You’ll never need to worry about finding a parking spot close to your destination (the car will drop you off, then go park itself until you signal it back again)
  • Improved energy efficiency due to minimization of start/stop driving, and elimination of the weight of the unnecessary driver in some circumstances
  • Car-sharing services like Zipcar will be much more practical
  • Reduced need for traffic police, red light cameras, and other safety enforcement measures
  • Cargo transport and delivery vehicles will not need a driver at all

All of the above and more will make the society of the future a very different place than what we’re used to now. That kind of change is likely going to take some adjustment for us older folks, but what about the upcoming generations that will grow up with this? Well, we’re already seeing some signs of a change in attitude there.

The Millennials

Interestingly, the Millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000, approximately) have very different attitudes toward driving than us older folks. In particular, the Millennials are far less interested in drivingthan their parents and grand-parents. There are, of course, plenty of reasons for this attitude, including rising gas costs, an anemic economy, depressed wages, and increasing re-urbanization – none of which is likely to change much in the near future. All of these factors lead to a demographic that is open to the reinvention of vehicular transportation. As Sheryl Connelly, head of global consumer trends at Ford, said, “Young people value access over ownership.

The smartphone generation will be perfectly happy not dealing with the expense and hassle of car ownership — why would they when they can order up an autonomous Zipcar with a tap on their iPhone X?


Of course, there are going to be some bumps in the road on the way to our self-driving future. First up is the usual human resistance to change, though 50% of people surveyed today said they would be comfortable riding in a driverless car. That degree of acceptance suggests a rapid uptake once the technology becomes reasonable in price.

Another guaranteed problem is concern about safety. As mentioned before, autonomous vehicles will be far more reliable than human drivers; however, there will inevitably be an accident involving a self-driving car, and the event will be sensationalized by the media. In the end though, the desire to decrease the number of traffic-related fatalities in the world will drive adoption (just for reference, over 30,000 people die each year in vehicle-related deaths in the US alone).

From the GeekDad perspective, the most worrisome thing about autonomous vehicles that I can think of is the possibility of vulnerabilities in the software. We have serious issues with exploits in current operating systems and applications — how much riskier will it be when the compromised computer is rolling along at 60mph? Clearly these systems are going to require a level of security that will embarrass today’s military-grade gear.

Future Consequences

So what are the implications of large-scale adoption of self-driving vehicles? An obvious thought is the corresponding redesign of the road system. Just as we now have commuter lanes, there will undoubtedly be dedicated lanes for driverless vehicles. In fact, eventually the majority of lanes will be reserved for autonomous vehicles, with a few “slow” lanes left over for manually-operated cars and horse-drawn buggies. And if we look even further ahead, eventually it will be illegal to drive a car on public roads.

Another anticipated change relates to the fact that driverless cars need not even be “cars.” Vehicles of the future won’t necessarily just transport humans, so there will likely be a wide spectrum of designs, from large cargo transports to small pizza delivery mini-mobiles. Of course, the technology behind self-driving cars will transfer easily to trains, streetcars, subways, ships, and possibly even aircraft (though that last one makes me a little nervous).

As with any other labor-saving advance in technology, an inevitable consequence of autonomous vehicles will be the elimination of a lot of jobs. Yes, there will be new jobs created to build and service these vehicles, but I’m pretty sure that far more jobs will be eliminated than created. In theory, this should mean that the overall efficiency of the system is increased, and humans will have increased time available to do more valuable work; in practice though, the transition involves a lot of disruption.


The signs are clear: autonomous vehicles are coming. The technology is already real, and it’s just a matter of scaling down the cost. Once that happens, there will be rapid adoption of driverless automobiles that will result in a complete redefinition of travel. Yes, there are some negatives to this impending transition, but overall, the shift to self-driving vehicles will be a net-positive for society.

And If you’re interested in autonomous vehicles, be sure to check out Brad Templeton’s Robocar page.