Tire-pressure monitors vulnerable, researchers say

September 2, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Wireless tire pressure monitoring systems designed to alert drivers to problems with low tire pressure can be intercepted or forged, causing possible security or privacy threats, according to research at the University of South Carolina and Rutgers University.

Dr. Wenyuan Xu, an assistant professor in the department of computer science and engineering at USC and the lead investigator on the project, said tire pressure monitoring communications systems in many new cars are not properly secured, allowing anyone to eavesdrop on the wireless communication and send false messages to drivers. Most new cars manufactured or sold in the U.S. after 2007 are equipped with the tire pressure monitoring system.

As technology evolves and more wireless sensors and devices are introduced into cars, Xu said carmakers need to pay more attention to securing wireless communication before more serious vulnerabilities emerge. For example, although not a reality yet, if the tire pressure reading is used to assist the stability control, then sending a forged message with the wrong tire pressure could be dangerous.

USC researchers and their colleagues at Rutgers University studied tire-pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), the devices that monitor air pressure inside tires and trigger a dashboard warning if a tire’s pressure drops. Researchers were able to intercept the wireless signals 120 feet away from the car using a simple receiver.

“Hopefully, as a result of our project, the security and from consumers will push the car industry to design in-car with security and privacy in mind,” Xu said.

Virtually all new cars use direct TPMS, which relies on wireless technologies. Since wireless communication is prone to eavesdropping and malicious hacking, the researchers wanted to analyze the security and privacy aspects of the first widely used wireless systems, Xu said. “Since the wireless communication contains unique identifiers of each car, it is possible to track vehicles by listening to the tire pressure monitoring system’s ,” Xu said. “Further, we have shown that we can transmit false messages to make the car trigger the ‘low pressure warning light’ on the dashboard while all tire pressures are normal. We managed to ‘damage’ the tire pressure monitoring system by sending false messages.”

Explore further: Infineon Introduces Three New Automotive Electronics Sensors

More information: Xu is a co-author of the paper, “Security and Privacy Vulnerabilities of In-Car Wireless Networks: A Tire Pressure Monitoring System Case Study,” and presented it at the USENIX Security Symposium in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

Related Stories

Infineon Introduces Three New Automotive Electronics Sensors

June 11, 2004

Munich, Germany and Detroit, Michigan, USA – June 8, 2004 – At the Sensors Conference and Expo, Infineon Technologies (FSE/NYSE: IFX) announced three new sensor products for automotive safety applications. The new sensor ...

Automatic tire pressure maintenance system

May 19, 2005

The National Nuclear Security Administration's Sandia National Laboratories recently provided three engineering concepts to small business owner Dale Petty for a gadget that keeps car tires inflated to the right pressure. ...

Database of wireless threats compiled

December 5, 2005

A Silicon Valley company said Monday it was making available the first public database of security threats aimed at wireless communications.

Penn State to recycle tires into roads

April 7, 2006

Penn State's Center for Dirt and Gravel Road Studies received a $696,685 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to use waste tires to improve dirt roads that are causing silting of local waterways. ...

Recommended for you

Internet giants race to faster mobile news apps

October 4, 2015

US tech giants are turning to the news in their competition for mobile users, developing new, faster ways to deliver content, but the benefits for struggling media outlets remain unclear.

Radio frequency 'harvesting' tech unveiled in UK

September 30, 2015

An energy harvesting technology that its developers say will be able to turn ambient radio frequency waves into usable electricity to charge low power devices was unveiled in London on Wednesday.

Professors say US has fallen behind on offshore wind power

September 29, 2015

University of Delaware faculty from the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE), the College of Engineering and the Alfred Lerner School of Business and Economics say that the U.S. has fallen behind in offshore wind ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Sep 07, 2010
Great. Now tire gauges need to be invulnerable.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.