‘Plane Hacker’ Roberts: I put a network sniffer on my truck to see what it was sharing. Holy crap!

Cars are turning into computers on wheels and airplanes have become flying data centres, but this increase in power and connectivity has largely happened without designing in adequate security controls.

Improving transportation security was a major strand of the recent Cyber Week security conference in Israel. A one-day event, Speed of Light, focused on transportation cybersecurity, where Roberts served as master of ceremonies.


“Israel was here, not just a couple of companies. Israel is going, ‘We as a state, we as a country, need to understand [about transportation security]’,” Roberts said. “We need to learn.”

“In other places it’s the companies. GM is great. Ford is good. Some of the Germany companies are good. Fiat-Chrysler Group has got a lot of work to do.”

Some industries are more advanced than others at understanding cybersecurity risks, Roberts claimed. For example, awareness in the automobile industry is ahead of that found in aviation.

“Boeing is in denial. Airbus is kind of on the fence. Some of the other industries are better.”


There’s almost nothing you can do [as a user] to improve car security. The only thing you can do is go back to the garage every month for your Microsoft Patch Tuesday – updates from Ford or GM.

“You better come in once a month for your patches because if you don’t, the damn thing is not going to work.”

What about over-the-air updates? These may not always be reliable, Roberts warned.

“What happens if you’re in the middle of a dead spot? Or you’re in the middle of a developing country that doesn’t have that? What about the Toyotas that get sold to the Middle East or Far East, to countries that don’t have 4G or 5G coverage. And what happens when you move around countries?”


“I put a network sniffer on the big truck to see what it was sharing. Holy crap! The GPS, the telemetry, the tracking. There’s a lot of data this thing is sharing.

“If you turn it off you might be voiding warranties or [bypassing] security controls,” Roberts said, adding that there was also an issue about who owns the data a car generates. “Is it there to protect me or monitor me?” he mused.

Some insurance firms offer cheaper insurance to careful drivers, based on readings from telemetry devices and sensors. Roberts is dead set against this for privacy reasons. “Insurance can go to hell. For me, getting a 5 per cent discount on my insurance is not worth accepting a tracking device from an insurance company.”

Source: ‘Plane Hacker’ Roberts: I put a network sniffer on my truck to see what it was sharing. Holy crap! • The Register

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