Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller build device to protect cars from hackers

Security experts to showcase technology that stops hackers taking control of vehicles

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 1:22am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 4:00am

Two security experts who a year ago exposed methods for hacking the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape say they have developed technology that would keep cars safe from cyberattacks.

At last summer's Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas, researchers Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller described ways to launch dangerous attacks, including manipulating the brakes of a moving Prius and Ford Escape.

Valasek and Miller will show off a prototype vehicle "intrusion prevention device" at next month's Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas.

They built the device with about US$150 in electronics parts, though the real "secret sauce" is a set of computer algorithms that listen to traffic in a car's network to understand how things are supposed to work. When an attack occured, the device identified traffic anomalies and blocked rogue activity, Valasek said.

"I really don't care if you hack my browser and steal my credit card," Valasek said. "But crashing a car is life or death. It is dramatic. We wanted to be part of the solution."

The research the two have released on the Ford and Toyota cars, as well as work by other experts on different types of vehicles, has raised concerns that somebody might one day try to replicate their work to launch a real-life attack.

Yet the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on Tuesday that it was not aware of any incidents of consumer vehicle control systems having been hacked.

The car industry has beefed up efforts to identify and mitigate potential cybersecurity risks over the past few years.

A representative of Ford said she had no immediate comment on the device.

Officials with Toyota could not be reached for comment.