Review: The Car Hacker’s Handbook

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The Car Hacker's Handbook

About the author

Craig Smith runs Theia Labs, a research firm that focuses on security auditing and building hardware and software prototypes. He is also a founder of the Hive13 hackerspace and OpenGarages. He has worked for several auto manufacturers, where he provided public research on vehicle security and tools.

Inside The Car Hacker’s Handbook

Car hacking and the insecurity of modern, computerized, connected cars has been a topic of much interest in the last few years. While we have yet to hear reports of targeted car hacking with malicious intent, there can be no doubt that that moment will come.

Luckily for security researchers and hobbyists, the US Library of Congress decided that looking under the hood of motorized land vehicles and tinkering with their software will not result in those parties being accused of breaking DRM protection.

Another stroke of luck is the publication of this book, which is an updated version of the book by the same name and author that was published two years ago.

Aside from telling you everything you need to know about all the digital parts, embedded software and control systems of your car – the CAN bus and devices, the electronic control units (ECUs), the various communication protocols, the connectors, the in-vehicle infotainment systems, etc – this book will show you how to search for weaknesses in these systems and write exploits for them.

You might also find undocumented but helpful features.

The author lists all the software and hardware tools that you can use to perform testing and research on your car, and dedicates an appendix to help users interested in car tinkering to start an Open Garages group in their area.

Smith and his colleagues at OpenGarages believe that we should know how systems that our lives depend upon work. What’s more, they are set on providing knowledge that will help users improve their car’s security and performance (there’s a whole chapter on performance tuning, which of course comes with certain trade-offs, and some of it could be illegal).

The book will also come in handy to mechanics that always wanted to dive into the electronic parts of the car, but didn’t know where to start.

The ultimate goal is to shed light on the inner workings of modern cars, discover potential security weaknesses and urge automakers to fix them, discover intentional choices that shouldn’t have been made (e.g. Volkswagen emissions scandal), and to know what you are driving.

But, the author warns, car hacking should not be taken casually. “Be very careful when experimenting with any of the techniques in this book and keep safety as an overriding concern. As you might imagine, neither the author nor the publisher of this book will be held accountable for any damage to your vehicle,” he pointed out.