Hacker Disables Cars Remotely in Austin, Texas

Alarm Notes

In brief: In a glimpse into what could happen in a more connected automotive world, more than 100 drivers in Austin, Texas have been tormented by their vehicles doing odd things thanks to a disgruntled ex-ployee turned hacker trashed a web-based vehicle system

The word

Car with notes about car alarm

In what has to be some of the oddest news in a long time, a web-based vehicle immobilization system which is normally used to keep delinquent customers up-to-date on their auto payments (in lieu of repossession), was hacked and vehicles on the system began to randomly sound their horns, fail to start, and otherwise commit acts of vehicular mayhem.

Normally, the horn sounding is meant to remind customers of a currently-due or late payment while the shut-off is used to remotely disable the car in order to avoid costly repossession and towing fees.

The horn system is only allowed to operate from 9am to 9pm, according to company spokesperson Martin Garcia of the Texas Auto Center (as reported in Wired Magazine). The shut-off system only works if the vehicle is already switched to the "off" position and merely don't allow a re-start.

All of this is facilitated through an in-dash after-market control box which can be installed at the dealership. These are commonly installed in cars in some areas so that the loan institution has a sort of guarantee for bad-credit customers who otherwise probably wouldn't qualify for a loan.

A disgruntled employee, laid off from the company, used a stolen password to access the system and began going through customer records and randomly setting off car horns and disabling vehicles and otherwise tampering with records.

The company began receiving complaints and promptly changed all employee passwords, putting an end to the hack, but not before over 100 customers and their cars had been messed with. Austin Police have made an arrest in the case.

And so ...

Given the current propensity towards smarter and smarter vehicles, all connected to the grid, this may be more of a concern in the future.

Photo credits: Wikimedia Commons

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