What do you get if you put a cheap laser pointer together with a Raspberry Pi? An attack that works against today's "assisted driving" vehicles and could make life hard for the driverless cars of tomorrow, according to researcher Jonathan Petit.
Petit, of Security Innovation, says $60 worth of laser with a bit of smarts makes cars sense phantom obstacles and hit the brakes, by interfering with the LIDAR (light-radar) sensors they use to detect and avoid objects around them.
Petit says his laser pointer system (which can include a pulse modulator for added fun) could target cars from up to 100 metres away, emulating a wall or pedestrian to force vehicles to slam on brakes or swerve.
“I can take echoes of a fake car and put them at any location I want,” Petit told IEEE Spectrum.
"And I can do the same with a pedestrian or a wall."
"I can spoof thousands of objects and basically carry out a denial of service attack on the tracking system so it’s not able to track real objects."
LIDAR first found widespread application in high-accuracy airborne mapping, but is sneaking into the top end of the motor industry. Last week, Pioneer announced it wants to repurpose its old Laserdisc technology into cheap LIDAR kit.
Petit says the laser pointer attack does not need to be accurate and could also be used to simply overwhelm with signals causing a vehicle to stop dead and not move.
The hacker will showcase his work at Black Hat Europe in November where he will offer some building with the breaking and detail defensive systems against laser pointers.
Results from laboratory experiments show effective blinding, jamming, replay, relay, and spoofing attacks. We propose software and hardware countermeasures that improve sensors resilience against these attacks. As such, sensors are also deployed in today's cars for advanced driver assistance systems, our results have a short-term relevancy beyond automated driving."
Petit obtained a commercial IBEO Lux lidar unit and replayed unencrypted signals to trick the unit into assuming an object was present.
He says his work has likely not been considered by the industry and will probably apply to other manufacturer units. ®