Tag Archives: cars

Car Hacking is Real!

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2016 BMW 7 Series Sedan

As you know cars are more and more reliant on technology. Internet connected cars provide everything from GPS directions, to entertainment to monitoring how well you and your engine are performing. And anything connected to the Internet can be hacked.

Recently the FBI issued a public service announcement warning  that cars are increasingly vulnerable to hackers and are encouraging victims to report incidents. The warning  was issued jointly with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and cautioned consumers and manufacturers to be aware of the risks of car hacking.

 Car hacking is real!  In July of 2015 a group of researcher demonstrated how  they could take control of a vehicle including braking and steering while it was traveling at 70 MPH.

Technological advancements in cars are simply amazing. On board computers control numerous vehicle functions including steering, braking, acceleration, lights and windshield wipers.  Cars also have wireless capability, including smartphone and  Bluetooth syncing,  keyless entry, ignition control, tire pressure monitoring, and diagnostic, navigation and entertainment systems; all vulnerable to hackers.  Many new cars offer autonomous systems for emergency braking and even steering. The new BMW 7 Series sedan allows the driver to release the steering wheel for up to 15 seconds. Audi  is offering a car that can drive in traffic jams and even find a parking space and park itself without the driver even being present. Not in the future, TODAY!

The FBI warned car owners that wireless vulnerabilities could be introduced by third-party aftermarket devices often used by insurance companies to monitor drivers. Devices likProgressive Insurance’s Snapshot come with Internet or cellular access and plug into your car’s diagnostics ports. These devices are an open gateway to automobile control systems.

The FBI and NHTSA urge consumers and manufacturers to take action to minimize the vehicular cyber security threats related to vehicle technologies.

Consumers are urged to maintain awareness of the latest recalls and updates affecting their vehicles. But criminals are also aware of these updates and it is possible criminals may exploit this delivery method. The FBI has warned that online manufacturer updates are vulnerable. Hackers using social engineering tricks could send an email messages to vehicle owners searching for legitimate software updates. These messages could trick them into clicking on links to malicious websites, opening attachments containing malware, or installing malware from USB drives. To minimize the potential risks vehicle owners should always verify any recall notices received, check on the vehicle manufacturer’s website to verify to if any software updates have actually been issued. Owners are warned to avoid downloading software from third-party websites, and use only trusted USB drives.

Is your car vulnerable? There is a list of the most hackable cars on the road available.

Breaking It Down

Cars have changed. All those wonderful luxuries you enjoy in your new car come at price that is a bit more than money. Hackers are not likely to take over your car trying to kill you. That is possible but not likely. But there is the danger of some childish asshole hacking cars for fun and creating a situation where someone  could get hurt or killed. It’s more likely a hacker will hack your keyless entry system to unlock your car to steal it or something out of it.  They could also potentially disable your car the same way they disable a computer and force you to pay to get your car back. It will probably happen and may already have.

When buying a new car with all the cool new technology you need to sit down with your salesperson and have a nice long conversation about your car’s security features. Make sure you understand how software upgrades are handled. Make sure you also understand how those driver monitoring things from the insurance company works. Another vulnerability you need to look out for is connecting your smartphone to your car via Bluetooth. Everybody has a few apps on their phones. Apps carry malware and one of those apps may interact with your car in ways you were not expecting.

The bottom line is you need to understand more about your car than just keeping it on the road and operating the stereo and air conditioning. Those days are long gone. When shopping for a car do your research and know what technology you are getting and how secure it is. 

App of the Week – TrueCar

TrueCar-logo-Tagline-XL-combo-layers-®_symbolBuying a car can be an intimidating task. Knowing what car to buy for your needs is the first place to start. Not the dealership. Make sure you study the cars, your needs, and your finances before you ever go near a car salesman. Buying a car requires information. That is why TrueCar is the App of the Week.

TrueCar gives the user the ability to see what other car shoppers in their region are paying for the same car. The company clams that it studies millions of car purchases every year. They believe that this helps to put an end to surprises at the dealership.  According to the TrueCar website the company has a network of TrueCar Certified Dealers that are “committed to truth and transparency in every aspect of how they treat you as their customer.”

There is a link on the webpage that gets you to begin shopping by selecting the make and model of the car you want. But you won’t find a dealership that easily. You will need to enter your email address to get to that step. But you can select your car and all the options you want and see the price. This is all from the website.

With the smartphone app you all the above plus a TrueCar representative who will answer your questions. The site does not say the representative is available 24/7 but they do say “Call us any time.” You can also scan the price sticker on the car to get your “upfront price and savings certificate.” The website failed to explain what that is exactly.

The biggest advantage of the TrueCar App and website is that you can see what others are paying for the same car. TrueCar also allows you access to special incentives that are only available to TrueCar users. According to the website TrueCar users save as much as $3,000 on the purchase of a new car when buying from a TrueCar certified dealer.

But if you really did your homework you would know what you want to and  can pay for the car of your choice. 

TrueCar is free and available on Apple and Android.

 

Cellphone Distraction While Driving on the Rise

texting_ban_signDriving is a complex task that requires your undivided attention. You might be focused on the task but what about other drivers? Accidents related to distracted driving are on the rise and the almighty cell phone is a major cause.

According to the National Safety Council cellphone-related auto accidents in the U.S. rose for the third straight year. Cellphone distractions account for more than one in four  of those accidents. Its frightening to think that according to statistics those numbers may be under-reported.

The Center for Disease Control reported the following impact of distracted driving;

  • In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver compared to 3,360 in 2011. An additional, 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver in 2012, a 9 percent increase from the 387,000 people injured in 2011.
  • In 2011, nearly one in five crashes (17 percent) in which someone was injured involved distracted driving.

The NSC estimates texting-related crashes rose from 5 percent to 6 percent while those involving talking on phones stayed at 21 percent for a total of 27 percent of the 5.7 million crashes in 2013.

NSC CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman said in a statement that, “While the public understands the risks associated with distracted driving, the data shows the behavior continues. We need better education, laws and enforcement to make our roads safer for everyone.” 

 Texting seems to have become a part of daily life. New research by psychologists from Penn State Harrisburg found that college students agree that it’s socially unacceptable to text while showering, on the toilet, eating, attending a funeral or while having sex, but do it anyway. 

The results of the 70 question survey was published as “2 TXT or not 2 TXT: College students’ reports of when text messaging is social breach,” in the Social Science Journal. 

Distracted driving, and operating other vehicles, has been listed as one of the top ten challenges by the National Transportation Safety Board. According to the NTSB, since 2003 distractions from portable electronic devices (PEDs) has been a cause or contributing factor in 11 accident investigations. Those crashes resulted in 259 people injured and 50 people killed. And the NTSB noted it does not investigate the majority of highway crashes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports hundreds of such deaths on our highways in 2012 alone. According to NHTSA, drivers engaging in visual-manual tasks, such as dialing or texting, triple their risk of a crash.

In a 2010 study conducted by Melvin Davis, Ph.D of the Mississippi Urban Research Center black and minority students are more likely to engage in cellphone activities while behind the whee of a car. The study revealed that;

  • Black upperclassmen were more likely to talk on a cell phone.
  • Freshmen were more likely to text while driving.
  • Incoming calls were a significant predictor of crashes.
  • Black students were twice as likely to have a crash when receiving incoming calls on their cell phone

Another study conducted by NHTSA revealed that while the rate of distracted driving is roughly equal among all ethnicities African-Americans were the highest with 43 percent of drivers prone to distraction.

Many states are reacting to the rise in cell phone distraction behind the wheel. These include bans on cellphone use behind the wheel. These include;

  • Hand-held Cell Phone Use Ban: 14 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving.
  • All Cell Phone ban: No state bans all cell phone use for all drivers, but 37 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice or teen drivers, and 20 states and D.C. prohibit any cell phone use for school bus drivers.
  • Text Messaging ban: 46 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers.
    • 3 states prohibit text messaging by novice or teen drivers.
    • 3 states restrict school bus drivers from texting.

While the cellphone is not only distraction while driving it is number one according to a combined study conducted by the  NHTSA and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. The study ranks driver distractions in the following order’

Top 10 Driver Distractions (source: NHTSA-VTTI Study):
1. Using a wireless device, such as a cell phone
2. Talking to and interacting with passengers
3. Reaching for CDs, food, falling objects or other internal distractions
4. Programming radio stations or tinkering with dashboard controls
5. Using an electric razor, applying makeup or other personal hygiene-related actions
6. Unwrapping a burger, opening a canned drink or other movements when eating at the wheel
7. External distractions such as pointing out a funny billboard or pedestrian
8. Talking or singing to oneself
9. Smoking
10. Daydreaming

Being able to multi-task is great skill at work and home but driving a car carries the responsibility being in a constant life or death situation. PUT DOWN THE PHONE! DRIVE THE CAR!

Now you know. 

App of the Week: Driving While Black

driving-while-black-landing-pagejpg-fabb6a73b66f9508Incidents in recent weeks have reminded all people of the horrible relationship between black people and law enforcement. Again and again black men have ended up dead as a result of an encounter with a police officer.

Driving while black is not a crime but a situation that is far more dangerous than just avoiding accidents. African-American parents have the added fear of wondering if their child will ever return when they leave home in the family car.

A 2013 U.S. Justice Department report revealed that a black driver is 30 times more likely to be pulled over than a white driver.  It is an insane situation to deal with but we have to. But now there is an app for that.

An African-Amercan lawyer in Portland, OR  has created the “Driving While Black” app. Mariann Hyland made a vow 10 years ago, after Portland Police fatally shot 21-year-old Kendra James during a routine traffic stop, to do something about these tragic incidents. She teamed up with another lawyer, Melvin Olden-Orr and software developer James Pritchett to create the app. It is intended to teach young black people how to survive being pulled over by police. As the level of tension between police and people of color continues to escalate after the Mike Brown and Eric Garner decisions, Hyland says this type of education is crucial.

“Being a police officer is a tough job,” said Hyland. “They deal with the most horrific experiences in society. They’re first responders. And traffic stops tend to be where they get hurt the most. So they’re on high alert when they pull you over. We want to educate people about how to put them at ease so they don’t feel threatened.”

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Melvin Oden-Orr, Mariann Hyland and James Pritchett

The “Driving While Black” app teaches young African-Americans how not to get pulled over in the first place. The app points out factors that can put a police officer on alert such as tinted windows. It urges people of color to perform as responsible drivers by using turn signals early. The app also offers a checklist to remind drivers to keep their license plate tags up-to-date and their headlights in working order.

The app also instructs young drivers on what to do if they do get pulled over. Alert functions in the app allows users to program in three numbers such as their mother, a friend or a lawyer if needed. When stopped by the police the driver can hit the “alert” button to immediately send a message to those three people.

“People feel so alone in these vulnerable situations,” Hyland said.

The “Driving While Black” app offers a record function so the user can tape and log interactions with police. It also provides video tutorials that demonstrate good and bad behavior during traffic stops and forms for submitting commendations or complaints against officers. It also includes a how-to-guide for parents talking with their kids about police. There is a checklist for ways to keep officers at ease. During research before the app was created Hyland and her team discovered that police see a car full of empty Red Bull cans as a danger sign.

But Hyland still had concerns about the app and the potential for danger. For example; could a driver reaching for his or her phone to use the app be mistaken for reaching for a weapon; a gun? We know it happens.

Oden-Orr considered if they should include video recording. Secretly recording police is illegal in Oregon. Other similar apps, including the ACLU’s Mobile Justice app for Android devices and the New York City-based Stop and Frisk Watch app for iPhone, allows it. They decided to include the record function with a reminder for the user to tell officers they are being filmed. They  also suggest using a hands-free device.

“Driving While Black” focuses specifically on traffic stops. But many police encounters happen outside traffic situations. Pedestrian situations have proven to be just as dangerous  as the Ferguson interaction between Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown clearly indicate.

Hyland pointed that “Driving While Black” consolidates resources from dozens of sources but reminds users that each case is different. The app teaches mothers how to talk to their sons about police. Eventually, it also will include a directory of lawyers for the user’s area, programmed using location-based technology.

“Driving While Black” is available for Android and iPhone.

 

 

Internet Spying: Your Home is Full of Snitches

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Courtesy of Image go

A lot of African-Americans are going to be extremely surprised by what I am about to tell you. Your home is full of snitches. Everything in it is spying on you. And not just your home. Your car is a snitch as well.

Black people are extremely averse to having our business in the streets. We believe in minding our own business and reminding you to stay out of ours. But we live in the information age and things have become very open and complicated. Technology has gotten to the point where you can’t do much or anything or go anywhere without someone knowing exactly what you are doing. 

AACR Rule #11, Information is the currency and commodity of the digital age.

Let’s look at the devices in your home that are telling your business.

1) Televisions – Black men love a big screen television with all the tricks and features. You gotta have it to watch the game. But these new smart TVs can and do track what you watch. Electronics manufacturer LG makes televisions that not only spy on what channels you’re watching but sends the names of files on thumb drives connected to the set back to LG. Hackers can also hack some models of Samsung smart TVs and use them as instruments to steal data from your network and all the devices connected to it. And are you ready for this? Hackers can even watch you through the webcam built into the television.

2) Your DVR/Cable-Box/Satellite-TV ReceiverNow even if your television is not spying on you then your cable box may be doing the job. Those set top boxes do more than bring you cable television. They can also provide your Internet service. So everything you watch on television and do online is recorded somewhere. Cable providers can track what you are watching and recording. They use this information to target ads more efficiently. Did you read your service contract? You may have agreed to allow the cable company to sell this information and even turn it over to the government.

3) Kitchen Appliances – Yeah; the newest refrigerators and other high tech kitchen appliances are connected to your home network allowing for great convenience and energy savings. But there is a catch; spying and security risks. So what can a kitchen appliance tell someone about you? How about when you wake up in the morning. That connected coffee maker is a snitch. If you have a refrigerator with a barcode reader it will tell someone your shopping habits. Smart kitchen appliances have had known security vulnerabilities for some time now. Can you believe there is a documented instance where hackers were using a smart refrigerator in a malicious email attack. I’m not joking! Hackers successfully used a smart fridge to send out malicious emails.

4) Cell Phones – If this comes as a surprise to you then you clearly have not been paying attaention. Your cell provider may be following your everymove, call and text. This information includes whom you communicate with and your location. This also includes the various apps you load on to your phone. Haven’t you heard about Angry Birds That and other apps may track other more detailed activity. Some apps will sync your phone contact list with the app the providers’ servers by default.

5) Your Webcam or Home Security Cameras Malware on your computer can operate your computer webcam  and record you or your family. That’s right. That webcam may be busy taking photos or video and you think the camera is off. Some notable people have found themselves the target of blackmail from a hacker who captured compromising images. Miss Teen USA was blackmailed by a hacker who took control of her laptop’s webcam. The hacker photographed her naked and demanded more images. Your home security cameras are vulnerable as well. Malware on computers could intercept transmissions from your home security cameras. These cameras are attached to your network and allow you to watch your homes from anywhere. Once hacked a criminal can see you’re not home or, more frightening, who is at home.

6) Your Telephone – You got the bundle right? Phone, internet and television service all in one. All using your home network and router. Easy pickings especially if you have not changed your router default password. Look at your phone bill. Every call, every number you dialed and every incoming call is listed and how long you were on the call. Its all there. And the provider has it too. See #1 & 2.

7.)  Lighting, Home Entertainment System, Home Security System – Can you turn on the lights from your cell phone? Open the garage door? What about your home alarm system? All these things are controlled via the Internet. Very convenient.  But ask yourself if this information is available to outsiders?  Is your security company recording your coming and going? What about your home entertainment system? Do you have a DVD player that streams Netflix? Do you stream music over your home stereo? This information is  relayed to manufacturers of the equipment as well as the supplier of the music or programming. Remember that anything that connects to the Internet can be hacked.

8) The house thermostat (s) Internet connected thermostats are now on the market. These devices provide convenience and energy savings. And the energy companies learn your habits and preferences. Google’s recently purchased the Nest thermostat maker. And keep in mind that Google is a notorious information collector. Your utility company may offer comparable devices to help you save on your energy bills. But what else is that thermostat or better versions that are sure to come telling your utility company?

9) Your Medical Devices This should definitely shock you but its not anything new. Medical devices such as pacemakers, insulin pumps, and other medical devices can and have been hacked. But even if they have not been hacked these devices may still be spying on you. Some pacemakers can transmit patient status information over the Internet allowing the doctor to monitor the patient.  Could this information be intercepted? What if a hacker transmitted phony information to the doctor? Also known as a man-in-the-middle attack.  And please forgive me thinking like this, but what if a hacker took control of a pacemaker or insulin pump? Would that be the perfect murder?

10) Your car – You have GPS don’t you? What about Bluetooth? Pandora radio? What about EzPass or other toll taking devices? Wherever you drive you can be tracked. Cars are the latest target of hackers because more and more come with Internet connectivity and some even act a WiFi hot spots. But what about how you drive? Some insurance companies are now offering devices that track your driving habits in exchange for insurance discounts. Progressive insurance uses a device called a SnapShot. It tracks your driving habits for 30 days and then adjusts your rates accordingly.

11) Your gun! – America loves its guns and it seems everyone has one at home. Is this a privacy issue? As firearms technology advances we may see the day of the  “smartgun.” A weapon that is computerized with various safety features meant to prevent accidents and unauthorized use. Such as by a child or someone other than the owner. Look for these on the market soon.  But can these devices be used to spy on the owner? Can the gun be remotely disabled by a hacker or law enforcement? Would the government be interested in such a high tech measure? Could a citizen or criminal be tracked by following his gun? Could a stolen firearm be tracked or how about illegal gun sales. And what would the NRA say about it? Stay tuned!

Now You Know