BT to start hacking connected cars, as cyberattack risks increase

The UK phone and telecoms giant's new "ethical hacking" service aims to fix security vulnerabilities in cars long before they roll off the production line.

(Image: CNET/CBS Interactive)

Hackers are working on new ways to drive you round the bend -- literally.

The British phone giant launched Monday its new ethical hacking service, which aims to prevent hackers and malicious actors from attacking cars while they're on the road.

More cars now than ever come with 3G, 4G, or Wi-Fi connectivity for navigation, radio, and other on-board features. But BT says those connections can be used against the driver -- even others on the road. That includes gaining access to essential features of the car, to grabbing information on drivers' habits for commercial purposes, and even remotely hijacking a vehicle, the company warned.

BT's team of ethical hackers and security experts wants to mitigate attacks before they happen -- even before cars rolls off the production line.

In remarks, BT vice-president Hubertus von Roenne said -- citing one case where an electric car acquired malware after it was plugged in at a rigged charging station -- that manufacturers are facing a whole new level of risk.

He added that the company's expanding its team to the automotive industry now because the automotive threat landscape continues to develop.

Earlier this year, sister-site CBS News' 60 Minutes showed how even the toughest military machines can be cracked open in minutes.

"It raises questions of safety, it raises questions of privacy, because no longer do you need a crowbar in order to break into a car, now you can do it with an iPad," Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) said in response to the report.

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