Researchers Prove Connected Cars Can Be Tracked – IEEE Spectrum

It may be possible to track connected vehicles by monitoring vehicle-to-infrastructure messages.
It may be possible to track connected vehicles by monitoring vehicle-to-infrastructure messages.

In-brief: research from the University of Twente in The Netherlands suggests that vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications may enable passive surveillance of a vehicle’s movements, raising privacy concerns. 

IEEE Spectrum has an interesting article on how vehicle to vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) technologies might also be used to track the movement of vehicles, independent of the owner’s wishes.

The research raises concerns about how “smart roads” and “smart infrastructure” technologies might be abused by governments or even criminal networks.

From the article:

In an experiment undertaken on the campus of the University of Twente in The Netherlands, two wireless sensing stations were able to pinpoint a target vehicle nearly half the time, according to Jonathan Petit, Principal Scientist at Security Innovation, a software security company.

V2V and V2I features are a key component of collision avoidance systems and “smart infrastructure” planning, that may – in the near future – be able to help drivers avoid areas of congestion.

[Read more Security Ledger coverage of connected vehicles.]

The wireless features in cars broadcast messages ten times a second, using a portion of the Wi-Fi spectrum at 5.9 gigahertz known as 802.11p. From the IEEE article:

Cars within a few hundred meters can receive these messages and use them to build up a picture of the traffic around them…However, there is nothing to stop anyone else from also tuning in to the messages using a wireless ‘sniffing station’. Data in the messages a vehicle sends is unencrypted, to allow other vehicles to use the speed and position information being broadcast. But while there is no personally identifiable data (such as a license plate) within the message itself, each wireless bulletin is digitally signed to ensure that fake messages can’t be introduced to disrupt traffic or possibly even cause accidents.

Petit’s monitoring stations track those signed messages, the article notes. And Petit and his colleagues warn that such surveillance technologies won’t be limited to governments. To prove that, he and his colleagues installed sniffing stations at just two intersections on Twente’s campus (out of a possible 21), and equipped a security vehicle with a standard V2X transmitter.

Over 16 days of normal operation, the vehicle transmitted over 2.7 million messages, of which the sniffers detected just 40,000, or around 3 percent. Even with this relatively minuscule amount of information, Petit was able to locate the vehicle roughly 40 percent of the time, and place it within either zone of the campus with much higher accuracy. ‘Burglars could wait until all police vehicles are outside of a certain area before attempting a robbery,’ he notes.

Source: Researchers Prove Connected Cars Can Be Tracked – IEEE Spectrum