A bluetooth dongle used to track driver habits for insurance purposes has been hacked potentially allowing cars to be remotely hijacked, researcher Corey Thuen says.
The attack targeted the SnapShot dongle offered by US company Progressive Insurance and used by two million American drivers which collected vehicle location and speed details to build custom policies.
Those dongles -- and likely those on offer through rival insurance firms -- lacked a host of security controls exposing the CAN bus to hackers.
"The firmware running on the dongle is minimal and insecure," Thuen told Forbes.
"It does no validation or signing of firmware updates, no secure boot, no cellular authentication, no secure communications or encryption, no data execution prevention or attack mitigation technologies ... basically it uses no security technologies whatsoever."
Thuen of Digital Bond reverse-engineered the Snapshot dongle's firmware and found it was outdated and badly insecure.
A theorised remote attack against the devices would require the adjacent u-blox modem to be hacked, a feat Thuen said was possible.
A greater but more complex attack would require the compromise of Progressive Insurance's server infrastructure, or that of another provider offering the dongles. That attack could allow exploitation on a much wider scale which Thuen said could result in loss of life.
The device's CAN bus granted access to vehicle functions in a huge range of cars including steering and braking which insurance companies used to track elements such as average speed.
SnapShot manufacturer Xirgo Technologies did not respond to Thuen's private disclosure attempt before he broadcast his work at the S4x15 conference in Miami.
Progressive Insurance said it was not informed before the talk and that it would welcome input on identifying the holes.
The CAN bus had been the target of much previous hacking research. The latest dongle similar to the SnapShot device to be hacked was the Zubie device which examined for mechanical problems and allowed drivers to observe and share their habits.
Argus Cyber Security researchers Ron Ofir and Ofer Kapota went further and gained control of acceleration, braking and steering through an exploit. ®