Hackers build vehicle tuning device for less than $30

By on February 10, 2014, 3:00 PM

Security has become a growing concern as technology gains a larger foothold in the automotive industry. Up to this point, however, most of the fear associated with a hacker taking over your car has been limited to viral e-mails and the like. But that could all change in the near future thanks to a practical (and affordable) device that can be built using common components.

As Jalopnik outlines, the device is built using the Arduino platform and also contains an SD card reader, a 12V to 5V adapter, a small LCD screen and all of the necessary connections required to hook up to a car. And yes, the device needs to physically plug into the vehicle’s computer so no wireless hacking (yet) although it can be controlled wirelessly via Bluetooth from a smartphone.

Alberto Garcia Illera and Javier Vazquez Vidal, the developers behind the project, said they initially created it because they wanted to adjust the settings of their cars (and their friends’ cars). Specifically, they wanted to tune the ECU for better fuel management and add more power – a common technique among automotive enthusiasts that usually requires an expensive aftermarket tuning device.

The gadget can be used for the intended purpose but if it fell into the wrong hands, things could go bad pretty quickly. For example, it could be used to “brick” a car by unplugged it while the car is starting up. Other options would allow the module to apply the emergency brakes, turn the headlights on or off and change the power steering controls.

The system is currently compatible with 2010 and newer models that use the K-Line protocol although we’re told it could easily be modified with newer protocols.

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