BMW promises drivers security to rival online banking in its connected cars

BMW has re-configured its connected cars after hackers were able to unlock car doors using their smartphones in "minutes".

Europe's largest motorists' club, ADAC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club), discovered a security hole in BMW's ConnectedDrive - the platform that connects 2.2 million BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce models.

Hackers were able to unlock BMWs using their smartphone by altering the transmission of data through their mobile phone network in just "minutes" on several occasions, the association reported on Friday.

BMW quickly patched the vulnerability for all its ConnectedDrive-enabled cars following the revelation, however, it did not say how many cars in the UK may have been affected.

The ConnectedDrive platform offers apps for entertainment, navigation, social media as well as professional tools like Online Office. It also offers a range of remote services, offering the option to "transform your smartphone into an intelligent and convenient remote control for your vehicleNow you just have to reach into your jacket pocket to have access to your BMW via your iPhone or Android device".

The carmaker's ConnectedDrive arm is also responsible for developing its semi-autonomous driving capabilities.

Since patching the vulnerability, any car that connects to the BMW group server will now communicate with the new configuration through a HTTPS protocol - previously used for BMW Internet, a service that allows passengers to surf the web through their phones while in the car.

It assured drivers that cars will be protected by encryption, which "is also being used by banks for online banking".

Further, the identity of the BMW Group server will have to be authorised by the car before information is sent over the mobile network.

The company added: "In this way, the BMW Group has responded promptly and increased the security of BMW Group ConnectedDrive, because no cases have come to light yet in which data has been called up actively by unauthorised persons from outside or an attempt of this kind is made in the first place."

The carmaker was keen to add that no hardware was affected by the motorist club's attempted hacks.

It has been predicted that a fifth of all cars will have some form of wireless network connection by 2020 - amounting to over a quarter billion vehicles on roads worldwide.

In light of this, the German automotive group released a statement imploring carmakers to ramp up their security to protect cars against manipulation of illegal access in the same way most modern businesses must protect themselves.

It added that regulation should be put in place by a "neutral body".

BMW has come under fire for its ConnectedDrive platform before. In July drivers were left unable to access services following a data migration.

Image: BMW's ConnectedDrive app and car dashboard BMW


Margi Murphy

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