Hacking driveless-cars using a simple Laser and a Raspberry Pi

Pierluigi Paganini September 09, 2015

The security researcher and scientist Jonathan Petit claims to be able to hack a driveless-cars by using a simple Laser and a Raspberry Pi.

Driverless-cars are the final goal of the principal car manufacturers that are working on several projects to introduce this new revolution in the automotive.

Lexus, Mercedes and Audi are just some of the most important car maker working on driveless-car projects.

The security community is warning automaker about possible risks, Driverless-car hacking is technically possible and car vendors have to carefully consider security by design when dealing with so complex technology.

Google has already developed and tested a semi-driverless car, it requires the human intervention as a failsafe in case problems. Automakers cannot ignore the risks of hack for their driveless-cars, news of the day is that

driveless-cars google

The security researcher Jonathan Petit, a scientist at the software-security company Security Innovation, claims to have discovered a way to hack driveless-cars by simply using a Laser and a Raspberry Pi.

Petit explains that driveless-cars rely on laser-powered sensors that are used to detect the obstacles in their paths, a laser could allow an attacker to fool these sensors.

Driverless-cars use laser ranging systems “lidar” (a riff off of “radar”) to detect any obstacle present on the road and avoid it. The lidar systems send out radio waves measuring the way the waves are reflected back after bouncing off of objects that surround the car.

“(LIght Detection And Ranging) systems using the same principle as RADAR are developed for a wide range of locating, ranging, and profiling applications. Such a system consists of a laser capable of transmitting light (pulsed or continuous) over the required range of interest, and a high-speed, low-noise receiver for reflected signal analysis. Transmitted light interacts with and is changed by the target. A percentage of this light is reflected / scattered back to the receiver according to the reflectivity of the target. Changes in the properties of the transmitted signal enable some properties of the target to be determined. In the most common application, the Time Of Flight (TOF), is used to determine range.” states a paper on the Lidar published by TI. 

A line-of-sight attacker using a laser pointer to trick those sensors into detecting and avoiding obstacles that don’t exist on the path.

“Automotive system designers develop sophisticated LIDAR systems to automatically control vehicle speed and braking systems according to traffic conditions. Such systems can also dynamically control distance from other vehicles and obstacles and even manage safety features such as airbags. Advancements in this technology greatly improve driver comfort and safety. ” continues the paper.

Petit told IEEE Spectrum that he was able to fool the lidar radar systems of self-driving cars with off-the-shelf technology, he designed a device spending just $60. Petit can interfere with driveless-cars deceiving the lidar systems, tricking them into thinking to be in front of walls or pedestrians.

“I can take echoes of a fake car and put them at any location I want. And I can do the same with a pedestrian or a wall.” Petit made his device using a low-powered laser and a pulse generator, although he said “you don’t need the pulse generator when you do the attack. You can easily do it with a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino. It’s really off the shelf.”

Petit claims to be able to hack driveless-cars by using its tool being away from the Lidar system a range roughly 65 up to 1,500 feet.

Petit explained that anyway is possible to fix the problem, but he doubts automakers have already implemented it.

“A strong system that does misbehavior detection could cross-check with other data and filter out those that aren’t plausible,” he said. “But I don’t think carmakers have done it yet. This might be a good wake-up call for them.”

Petit will present his findings at the Black Hat Europe security conference this November.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – driveless-cars, hacking)

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