Why Luddites will value old cars over new ones
So people are turning to typewriters so that the NSA won’t monitor their communications. In the next move of, um, reverse engineering, people may want to start driving old cars. Really old cars. This 2010 model is too dangerous:
Stomping on the brakes of a 3,500-pound Ford Escape that refuses to stop–or even slow down–produces a unique feeling of anxiety. In this case it also produces a deep groaning sound, like an angry water buffalo bellowing somewhere under the SUV’s chassis. The more I pound the pedal, the louder the groan gets–along with the delighted cackling of the two hackers sitting behind me in the backseat.
Yes, two engineers, funded by DARPA, have demonstrated ways to hack the computers in your car. And anyone who knows anything about security is not impressed with Toyota’s response:
Toyota, for its part, says it isn’t impressed by Miller and Valasek’s stunts: Real carhacking, the company’s safety manager John Hanson argues, wouldn’t require physically jacking into the target car. “Our focus, and that of the entire auto industry, is to prevent hacking from a remote wireless device outside of the vehicle,” he writes in an e-mail, adding that Toyota engineers test its vehicles against wireless attacks. “We believe our systems are robust and secure.”
Frankly, this is sort of like saying that “no one would ever fly two airplanes into a tall skyscraper.” Even if a hacking attempt depended upon physical access to a car’s data port, it’s easy enough to attach an electronic device to the data port, and communicate with the port via wi-fi. And, as the Forbes article notes, you don’t need physical access to a car’s data port; the car’s wi-fi can be hacked also.
I’m sure that Toyota’s internal conversations don’t mirror its external ones. Perhaps internal car ports will require extra security before someone can access them. And, of course, the hackers will defeat that extra security, and the merry cycle will continue.
You’ll note that I used the word “value” in the title of this post. It probably won’t happen, but it’s theoretically possible that people could create an economic demand for pre-computer cars, in the same way that Americans value older toilets that use more water.
Of course, the Amish come out ahead in any of these discussions. In fact, the Amish can even have a “driverless car” – if the horse knows the way.
P.S. As an added bonus, this investigation is going to be discussed at DEFCON – a conference at which DARPA itself (who funded the endeavor) is not welcome. Because DEFCON organizers know that if you tell someone that they can’t do something, they will always obey.