The tire pressure monitoring sensors are used to let the drivers be aware of the air pressure in their tires. Apparently, they also have another neat feature: they're like an welcome sign for hackers and can be used to attack the car's computer systems.
Researchers from the Rutgers University and the University of South Carolina found that wireless tire pressure sensors can be used as an entry point by hackers (for that matter, all of the wireless systems in a car can be used to achieve the same result), who can remotely start activating or deactivating systems.
The research has found that by using these sensors, one can track the vehicles and, what's worse, cause damage. The researchers managed to control the car's brakes and engine and even the wipers and dashboard warning signals were activated remotely.
Apparently, all this has been achieved by using radio sensors and special software worth no more than $1,500. The distance needed to hack into a car is 120 feet (36 meters) and the hacking can be done from both a stationary location and a moving car.
According to arstechnica.com though, the dangers revealed by the research are minor, as tire pressure sensors only provide a 60-90 seconds window of opportunity for hackers (the time frame in which the sensors send a brief radio signal). Even so...
"Our research shows that there are multiple risks," Marco Gruteser, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rutgers University told csmonitor.com.
"Privacy is a problem since every car has these unique fingerprints from tire pressure, and that makes it possible to track movements. But this vulnerability can lead to something more serious."