An engineer is developing a crowd-funded lock that could prevent car thieves hacking into your vehicle’s onboard computer system. The AutoCyb is a small mechanical dongle that plugs into a car’s on board diagnostics (OBD-II) port located under the dashboard. Once locked, it provides a layer of physical protection against anyone wishing to access your car’s brain.
The ODB-II port, a feature on every car built since 1996, is a small jack that mechanics can use to diagnose faults with your car, usually after the ‘check engine’ light is illuminated. Techs can plug a diagnostics tool into the port and the car feeds back data related to its state of physical health. The port is completely unprotected, however, so there’s every possibility it can be used for nefarious purposes.
Hackers have already started using ODB-II ports to reprogram blank car key fobs and steal BMW vehicles.
The port can also provide a wealth of other interesting data, akin to the information that might be contained in an aircraft’s black box. Logs stored within the system can reveal how fast you’ve been driving, when you apply the brakes, or the car’s steering angle during an accident. Understandably, this data can be very valuable to insurance companies, the people that attempt to defraud them and those that want to maintain privacy.
“It is [the car owner’s] data to begin with,” commented Tom Kowalick, creater of the AutoCyb. “And they are merely securing it from others who possess the ability to alter, delete, modify or just plain zap it with an electronic tool. They went from point A to B. They created it. Why should others access it?”
Kowalick has produced some 4,000 AutoCybs and is currently aiming to raise $132,000 through crowd-funding site Indiegogo by May 14th. Backers can get one of their own for $33 with orders being fulfilled as soon as the Indiegogo campaign ends.