High-Tech Cars Hacked: Haunted Horns

A few weeks ago, Slate's Farhad Manjoo told us that we shouldn't worry about all the computers and new technology crammed into our cars:

I think that we have to ... recognize that at the same time that we've added computers to cars, they've gotten much safer and more reliable. I mean, newer cars are much safer, and you need to take them into the mechanic far less often than you used to. And that's, you know, one of the rewards of making cars more complex — they run better, they have better fuel economy, and, you know, we all want that, we all love that about our cars these days.

This post, published on Wired's Threat Level blog, made me wonder if Manjoo is right.

In "Hacker Disables Over 100 Cars Remotely," Kevin Poulsen chronicles a scary hacking incident:

More than 100 drivers in Austin, Texas found their cars disabled or the horns honking out of control earlier this month, after an intruder ran amok in a web-based vehicle immobilization system normally used to get the attention of consumers delinquent in their auto payments.

He goes on:

Texas Auto Center began fielding complaints from baffled customers the last week in February, many of whom wound up missing work, calling tow trucks or disconnecting their batteries to stop the honking. The troubles stopped five days later, when Texas Auto Center reset the Webtech Plus passwords for all its employee accounts, says Garcia. Then police obtained access logs from Pay Technologies, and traced the saboteur's IP address to [Omar] Ramos-Lopez's AT&T internet service, according to a police affidavit filed in the case.

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