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Cybersecurity Meets Supply Chain: Big Rigs Can Be Hacked Too

August 12, 2016 Leave a comment dridrive

truck on highwayIt’s not just Jeeps and other consumer automobiles that can be hacked. A recent demonstration has shown that the industrial vehicles vital to the supply chain are vulnerable as well.

University of Michigan researchers are presenting the findings of a set of tests on big rig trucks. By sending digital signals to the internal network of the truck, they were able to trigger unintended acceleration, change the instrument panel readout, and even disable one semi-trailer’s brakes.

How they did it: connecting a laptop to the heavy vehicles’ diagnostic ports, they simply looked up most commands using the open standard common to those vehicles. From there it was a matter of replicating the signals on the networks, without even having to reverse-engineer specific commands as they would with a consumer vehicle.

As a result, the researchers said it was actually easier to attack the trucks than it was for consumer cars, because of a common communication standard in the internal networks of most industrial vehicles.

WIRED reached out to the National Motor Freight Traffic Association, which responded that acknowledges the threat represented and is taking the researchers’ work seriously, and even funding future research from the same team.