Vulnerabilities Could Give Hackers Remote Access to VW, Audi Models

Vulnerabilities Could Give Hackers Remote Access to VW, Audi Models

Security researchers found that certain models from Volkswagen could be hacked and remotely controlled.

Security researchers have found several vulnerabilities in the infotainment system of some Volkswagen and Audi models, allowing them to remotely access the system and commandeer the microphone, navigation system and speakers.

Hackers Daan Keuper and Thijs Alkemade from Dutch firm Computest found the flaws in early 2017 after probing Harman-made infotainment systems in a 2015 model VW Golf GTW and Audi A3 Sportback e-tron. Both vehicles are made by the Volkswagen group.

The whitehat researchers were out to find ways to compromise an internet-connected car remotely and without user interaction. They found a flaw in the VW's in-vehicle infotainment system that can be remotely exploited if the vehicle connects to an attacker's Wi-Fi network.

Using the vulnerability, they were able to gain root access to the infotainment system's main processor, which is responsible for navigation and multimedia decoding. From there, they were able to control the RCC or radio and car-control unit, which could potentially allow an avenue for sending malicious messages to the Controller Area Network bus to manipulate vehicle controls such as the braking and steering system.

The researchers reported their findings to Volkswagen Group in mid-2017. In mid-April, the group wrote a letter to the researchers that appears to confirm the vulnerabilities they reported and suggested a patch was deployed on new models made after mid-2016.

"The objective of manipulating the steering and brake was not achieved. However, you did succeed in accessing the infotainment system and obtaining 'Root' authorizations. These administrator rights and modular infotainment matrix (MIB) are intended for development at Volkswagen and not for other people in a customer vehicle. The open interface on the Golf GTE and Audi A3 was closed by an update to the infotainment software from production week 22/2016 onwards," the letter said.

It is not clear at this time what Volkswagen did to address the flaws in models produced before mid-2016. Researchers suspect they are still vulnerable.

About the Author

Sydny Shepard is the Executive Editor of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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