In a disturbing new report, researchers showed just how easily hackers can attack the internal computer network of a semi truck to take control of the brakes, acceleration, or even the readout of the instrument panel.
Researchers Use Laptop To Take Control Of Truck
Cybersecurity researchers from the University of Michigan are preparing to share their findings at the Usenix Workshop on Offensive Technologies next week. They focused their attacks on a 2006 model semi truck that they were able to access with a laptop computer.
Hackers Say Trucker Are Easier To Hijack Than Passenger Vehicles
By connecting the laptop to on-board diagnostic ports, hackers were able to easily look up and replicate commands using the same J1939 open standard shared by a wide variety of heavy duty trucks. Because of the standardization among commercial vehicles, hackers were able to seize control of the truck’s systems with much more ease than a passenger vehicle, which would require them to tailor their cyber attacks to the make and model of the car.
Here’s What Hackers Were Able To Do
What is perhaps even more worrying than the ease with which the hackers seized control of a truck? Learning exactly what they can do. Researchers demonstrated the ability to:
- Engage the truck’s emergency brake without warning.
- Control the output and readings of dashboard gauges and warning lights.
- Fake a full tank of fuel when the actual fuel tank is nearly empty.
- At 30 MPH or less, they could disable the engine brake.
- Make the truck speed up against the driver’s will.
While researchers refrained from actually doing it, they also believe that they can totally destroy the engine of a truck.
The researchers pointed out that the attacks were made while a laptop was plugged directly into the OBD port, but they also say that a determined hacker could likely find a way in via telematics systems. Additionally, they say that newer trucks might not be so easy for hackers to manipulate.
Video Shows Hijackers In Action
The report comes with a series of videos demonstrating what the hackers were able to do.
In the video below, they make the truck speed up without assistance from the driver:
Hackers were also able to make the warning lights go haywire:
You can see how hackers were able to hijack the gauges in this video: