Home > Blogs > Computer Service is Car Service Part 3

If cars are little more than a computer, does that mean they are as hackable as any Windows or Mac OSX or Android system?

I stopped to eat somewhere.  I needed to reboot my energy level and my computer.  I found my toolkit and removed the negative battery cable.  Done!  Given a half hour, and the memory should be reset back to default.  I had accomplished the equivalent of "Have you tried turning it off and on again?"

Result?  No blinkies.  No issues, and a total return to functionality.

This is a simple example of the alignment of cars to basic computer principles.  Defcon 21 started with a bang as Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek discussed How To Hack a Car.  Much like me, their experiments with two automobiles show that these can be open to all kinds of attacks.  In my case, I simply rebooted by powering down for one half hour.  Miller and Valasek found all kinds of tricks were possible.  Display incorrect data?  Sure.  Engage the brakes?  Yes.  And these cars will soon be on the Internet.

I don't fear computer technology in cars.  I don't fear these being network attached.  I fear that people will be so bedazzled by the new technology that they'll reject it.  Meanwhile, by rejecting the chance to relay information back to the vendor, a critical component to quality for computers, we deny ourselves a chance to maximize our automotive investment. 

By rebooting my computer, er, car, I made it to the destination.  A trip to the dealership showed the problem was a dirty Mass Air Flow sensor.  Cleaning it was as easy as replacing the air filter on Honeywell air cleaners I remember.

Car Service is increasingly Computer Service.  And car service will be as understandable as computer service.  I promise.