Last year, computer security researchers succeeded in hacking automotive systems. Once they had done so, they could kill the engine, lock the doors, and turn off the brakes while the car was moving down the highway. The attacks worked best, not surprisingly, when the researchers had been able to plug into the car’s onboard computers. This year, the same team went looking for more creative ways to get access to cars' onboard systems. The most innovative of their successes came from altering the code on a music CD. The additional signals modified the stereo system’s firmware, giving the researchers access to the car's computer network.
It will be a while before your CDs turn on you, but the researchers seem confident that their malware can be surreptitiously added to mp3 files distributed on peer-to-peer networks. They envision a whole new style of auto theft, in which thieves “could instruct cars to unlock their doors and report their GPS coordinates and Vehicle Identification Numbers to a central server.”
Which brings us to the RIAA. Considering the clout they’ve already demonstrated on Capitol Hill, it may just be a matter of time before the industry persuades Senator Leahy to introduce the “Steal Our Music, We Steal Your Car” Act of 2011, authorizing copyright owners to introduce car-hacking code into Limewire and Bittorrent networks and then take possession of the music thieves' vehicles. No doubt, they can produce studies showing that the act would create thousands of exciting auto repo jobs, and a tie-in with CarMax would help share the lobbying burden.
OK, I’m kidding. But I am looking forward to a bitter CFIUS debate when the Chinese try to buy XM/Sirius.