So, how about those driverless cars? In our computer-driven world, it’s always a bit disappointing to hear how safety can be compromised by hackers. The story currently flooding the news involves the hacking of a driverless car committed through a laser pointer and basic computer. That’s it – $60 worth of equipment. Yikes.
According to TechNewsWorld (9/8/15 Suciu), security researcher Jonathan Petit of Security Innovation warned that this low-investment setup could trick the multi-thousand dollar laser ranging system, LiDAR, which is installed in most self-driving cars.
The hacker may deceive the self-driving vehicle into detecting that something is in its path, when that something doesn’t actually exist. This could cause the vehicle to change direction, potentially stopping, slowing down, or swerving out of the way.
“This all depends on how the system reacts to what it sees ahead,” noted Petit. “The outcome depends on sensor fusion” — that is, combining sensory data that has been derived from disparate sources, which reduces uncertainty.
“A camera could check the data,” Petit explained, “but we know that an attacker could also target the other sensors. The concern is that if there are too many false positives, systems will be shut down one by one, and then the damage that any one attack can do is worse.”
Per Popular Science (9/8/15, Gershgorn), Petit was able to imitate movement of pedestrians, other vehicles, or stationary objects from 50 to 1000 feet away. The laser beam method worked up to approximately 300 feet from the targeted vehicle and high accuracy with the beam wasn’t required in order for the hack to be “successful.”
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