IoT Nightmares: Rerouted

This post originally appeared on SafeNet’s The Art of Data Protection blog prior to Gemalto’s acquisition of SafeNet.

Internet of Things Security - Smart Cars

I scanned the street from my window, looking for anyone who may be out of place. The streets were empty, even for this hour. With a push of a button my car, which had been parked a few blocks away, roared to life, the headlights illuminating the street below as it made its way to the entrance of the warehouse.

Grabbing the briefcase, I quickly ran down the stairs and to the car now waiting for me. The rain was coming down in sheets. I searched the narrow street for any sign that I had been noticed. In the distance I could hear the sound of the trash trucks making their morning rounds, but the street was empty. I jumped in the car and closed the door.

“SiD, take me to the airport,” I commanded the car. With that, the car quickly programmed the fastest route to the airport and started down the road.

My plan is coming together, I thought.

3:06 AM, I had just enough time.

The car navigated out of the city and on to I-95 in route to my destination. With each mile marker, I could feel myself nearing freedom. My heart was racing. I made futile attempts to calm my nerves.

You’re fine. They have no idea where you are and where you are going.

For months I had been looking for a way out.  Going to the authorities was out of the question; their pockets had been lined by the boss for years. Even the FBI was not to be trusted. My only hope was to seek the protection of the very people I had once called my enemy. And for that, I needed a bargaining chip. The contents of this briefcase represented my last chance at freedom.

Traffic was light through the tunnel. Semi-trucks were making their way to early morning deliveries, and a few cars shuttled their passengers to work. As the car emerged from the tunnel I could see a sign reading: AIRPORT 7 MILES, and I was hit with a wave of excitement. I was almost home free.

As we passed the first exit after the tunnel I noticed a car following closely behind me. Too close to be another automated car, I thought. Manual cars were rare–rarer still at this hour. I worked myself into a panic. This car had to be following me. Why else was he so close?

Through the rearview mirror I could make out three figures in the vehicle, and my heart sank. This is it. They have me.

Then, as quickly as it appeared, the car shifted lanes, and exited the highway. The relief was overwhelming and I laughed at my paranoia.

With just four miles to go my car merged into the right lane and took an unexpected exit. At first I thought that it was adjusting for traffic. Perhaps there was an accident up ahead, I reasoned. Then the car made a right, when it should have went left.

“SiD,” I commanded, “take me to the Airport.”

The car pressed on it course, seeming to ignore my command. Soon we were in the abandoned warehouse district, speeding past long forgotten loading docks. I tried again to reroute the vehicle to the airport, this time using the console, but it refused to break its course.

“Destination reached,” SiD announced as we came to a stop among rows of shipping containers stacked four high, and an older manual car beside them. Then three figures stepped into the beam cast by my headlights and started moving slowly in my direction.

My phone began to ring, and the car answered without prompting me to accept the call.

“You have something of mine, Mr. Thompson,” said the voice on the other end, “and I would like it back.”


Autonomous cars will change our commute forever. They have the ability to enhance the safety and efficiency of road travel, while potentially making our time in the car more productive.  Although this technology is exciting, researchers have only recently begun to understand the security challenges inherent in vehicles on the road today. Videos like the one below demonstrate just how vulnerable and dangerous an improperly secured car can be.

Autonomous navigation will increase the potential harm that could be caused by skilled hackers manipulating our vehicles.  With recent estimates predicting that 75% of vehicles on the road will be autonomous by 2040, it is clear that the security of this technology must become a top priority.

The IoT Nightmares don’t end here!

IoT Nightmares LogoCheck out the previous entries in the IoT Nightmares blog series:

You can also play our IoT Nightmares Security Game to explore the risks the Internet of Things introduces to retail, healthcare, financial services, and other industries.

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