Ask any independent car repair garage which BMW do they think is the best and many will point to models that rolled off the production line in 2000.
The reasoning is direct. They were the last of the purely mechanical BMW’s, devoid of computers, simple to maintain and with engines built to last.
‘Proper engines, BMW engines,’ said one mechanic.
As if to tangentially prove a point some eager security researchers took some a BMW and managed to find 16 vulnerabilities that could be exploited by smart hackers.
The flaws could be exploited to gain local and remote access and control of:
- The infotainment system which delivers entertainment and information to drivers and passengers
- The Telematics Control Unit an embedded system that controls tracking of the vehicle
- UDS communication which is basically the means by which the car self-reports faults
- The CAN bus which allows in-car microcontrollers and devices to communicate with each other
To take advantage of some these flaws physical access is required but some vulnerabilities can be exploited remotely, via the wireless interfaces of the vehicle.
The researchers said technically speaking it’s possible to launch an attack from hundreds of metres even when the car is being driven.
- The researchers found vulnerabilities in the infotainment system of several BMW models, including BMW i Series, BMW X Series, BMW 3 Series, BMW 5 Series, BMW 7 Series
- The flaws in the Telematics Control Unit affect BMW models produced from year 2012 onwards
Thankfully it was researchers who discovered the flaws.
In response Bayerische Motoren Werke said upgrades have been rolled out and software updates are set to follow.
Specifically, it apparently said ‘BMW Group considers the security level for our customers and ensures [security standards are met].
As one Twitter commentator said: “Basically their cars are safe as long as nobody smart tries to hack them.”
If you listen carefully you can probably hear a collective of disconsolate mechanics sighing deeply.
But progress is progress despite its flaws.