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Theft and Technical Trends: Can Thieves control my car? Hacking attacks on Vehicle Security Systems 2011

  • Published:
  • SBD
This publication has been discontinued on March 19, 2013.


** Due to the confidential nature of the report content, your request to purchase SBD's security reports will be vetted by SBD's security team, prior to any sale agreement. **


This study explores the potential for thieves to use computer hacking techniques to gain access to vehicle systems. SBD examines the future of vehicle architecture and communications to identify the potential threats of hacking a vehicle through various wired and wireless connections. Hacking is major news, and researchers have already started to find vulnerabilities in existing systems. This report cuts through the hype to help you gain a clear picture of what hacks can be achieved at the present and which are likely to develop into threats in the future. Vehicle manufacturers and systems suppliers need to consider security within the concept of new communication systems, and to understand the capability that potential thieves will have when the vehicles being developed now are eventually launched. This report will help prevent the exploitation of new technologies.

This report will help you to:

  • Gain insight into how new communications and connectivity technologies will increase vehicle vulnerability
  • Examine the weaknesses in vehicle architecture to understand how hackers could misuse them
  • Understand exactly what research teams have been able to do and what methods were used
  • Benefit from useful pointers and solutions about future proofing your vehicles against hacking

This report answers the following key questions:

  • Is vehicle hacking a threat to vehicles now?
  • What can be achieved once a hacking attack has successfully connected to the vehicle?
  • Is hacking a vehicle easy to do? What equipment/knowledge is needed?
  • How will the future integration of systems and the move towards open architecture change this problem?

About the Report Author

Craig Best (Technical Analyst - Vehicle Security).

Craig's background is in Automotive Engineering at Loughborough University and he has a wide understanding of vehicle design principles. He has provided extensive research on a number of SBD projects, and helps to analyse and maintain the range of research databases. His current specialisation is in global theft statistics and vehicle technical information.

The SBD Commitment

From technical trends reports to conducting end user surveys, SBD has over 15 years of experience of providing strategic advice, insight and expertise to the automotive and associated industries globally.

At SBD, we help vehicle manufacturers and their suppliers bridge that gap between system design and actual market needs. Our diverse team of experts understand global market and technical requirements and how to plan cost-effective systems for the future that customers value and are willing to pay for.

Table of Contents

1. Executive summary

  • 1.1. Introduction
  • 1.1. Conclusions
  • 1.1. Recommendations

2. Architecture Weaknesses

  • 2.1. Wired Connection
  • 2.2. Wireless Connection
  • 2.3. Vehicle Technology
    • 2.3.1. Infotainment
    • 2.3.2. Telematics
  • 2.4. Summary of Access Routes

3. New Technology and Developments

  • 3.1. On Vehicle
  • 3.2. Infrastructure
  • 3.3. Theft Tools

4. Vehicle Hacking Attacks

  • 4.1. Research Study 1 - Connected Vehicle Control Units
  • 4.2. Research Study 2 - TPMS
  • 4.3. Research Study 3 - Police In-Car Surveillance System
  • 4.4. Public Hacking Incidences
  • 4.5. Summary of Successful Hacking Attacks

5. The Threat of Hacking

  • 5.1. Why Hacking will be a Threat in the Future
  • 5.2. Control of the Vehicle

6. Secure and Protect


  • Fig. 1: Developing CAN Architecture
  • Fig. 2: Increased Connectivity of Infotainment Systems
  • Fig. 3: Telematics Communication Route
  • Fig. 4: Summary of Possible Hacking Access Routes
  • Fig. 5: Road Train Concept
  • Fig. 6: TPMS Attack Tool
  • Fig. 7: Summary of Successful Hacking Attacks
  • Fig. 8: Vehicle Hacking Threats - Present vs. Future
  • Fig. 9: Criticality of On-Board Vehicle Systems
  • Fig. 10: ECU Partitioning - Body Control Module
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