Experimental Security Analysis of a Modern Automobile

By Karl Koscher, Alexei Czeskis, Franziska Roesner, Shwetak Patel, Tadayoshi Kohno, Stephen Checkoway, Damon McCoy, Brian Kantor, Danny Anderson, Hovav Shacham, and Stefan Savage.

In Proceedings of IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy (“Oakland”) 2010. IEEE Computer Society, May 2010.


Modern automobiles are no longer mere mechanical devices; they are pervasively monitored and controlled by dozens of digital computers coordinated via internal vehicular networks. While this transformation has driven major advancements in efficiency and safety, it has also introduced a range of new potential risks. In this paper we experimentally evaluate these issues on a modern automobile and demonstrate the fragility of the underlying system structure. We demonstrate that an attacker who is able to infiltrate virtually any Electronic Control Unit (ECU) can leverage this ability to completely circumvent a broad array of safety-critical systems. Over a range of experiments, both in the lab and in road tests, we demonstrate the ability to adversarially control a wide range of automotive functions and completely ignore driver input—including disabling the brakes, selectively braking individual wheels on demand, stopping the engine, and so on. We find that it is possible to bypass rudimentary network security protections within the car, such as maliciously bridging between our car’s two internal subnets. We also present composite attacks that leverage individual weaknesses, including an attack that embeds malicious code in a car’s telematics unit and that will completely erase any evidence of its presence after a crash. Looking forward, we discuss the complex challenges in addressing these vulnerabilities while considering the existing automotive ecosystem.



  author =       {Karl Koscher and Alexei Czeskis and Franziska Roesner
                  and Shwetak Patel and Tadayoshi Kohno and Stephen
                  Checkoway and Damon McCoy and Brian Kantor and Danny
                  Anderson and Hovav Shacham and Stefan Savage},
  title =        {Experimental Security Analysis of a Modern Automobile},
  booktitle =    {Proceedings of IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy
                  (``Oakland'') 2010},
  year =         2010,
  month =        may,
  editor =       {David Evans and Giovanni Vigna},
  organization = {IEEE Computer Society},
  pages =        {447-462},
  url =          {https://checkoway.net/papers/car2010},