Hackers Take Over Automated Car Wash, Cause Mayhem

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car wash

Mechanical arm trapped driver inside vehicle, and the entrance and exit doors were locked.

How many times have you driven your Ford truck through an automated car wash? Probably more than a dozen times. Thankfully, the headline of this article describes what happened during a live test by cyber security researchers, and not a real-life accident.

Not all automatic car washes are at risk, but allegedly only the PDQ LaserWash, which is touchless and monitored remotely via high-tech software. Like it or not, we live in a time when many of our daily-use devices can be hacked by malicious nerds. This exposes us to threats that we literally can’t see coming.

Billy Rios is the founder of Whitescope security, and he told the Motherboard that “This is the first exploit of a connected device that causes the device to physically attack someone.” “If you’re relying purely on software safety, it’s not going to work if there’s an exploit in play, the only thing that’s going to work [in this scenario] is hardware safety mechanisms,” said Rios.

car wash

What Rios refers to is a fully automated car wash system, in which there aren’t any attendants that could physically shut down the car wash in the event of a hostile takeover. In PDQ LaserWashes, sensors track the stage of the carwash and therefore know where in the bay your Ford truck is located. If desired, a hacker could send a command for the entrance and exit gates to close, trapping you inside.

If you think escaping would be as easy as flooring the throttle, the tracks which maintain your vehicle’s path could lock. To make matters even worse, a soapy and slippery surface could make it nearly impossible to get any traction.

So, it looks like we’re back to the ‘ole sponge and bucket.

Chime in with your thoughts on the forum. >>

Jerry Perez is a regular contributor to Ford Truck Enthusiasts, Corvette Forum, and 6SpeedOnline, among other auto sites.

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