Tire-pressure monitors vulnerable, researchers say

Sep 02, 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: Faradair team determined to make hybrid BEHA fly

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.

Provided by University of South Carolina

1 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

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

Dec 05, 2005

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

Infineon Introduces Three New Automotive Electronics Sensors

Jun 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 ...

Penn State to recycle tires into roads

Apr 07, 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

Faradair team determined to make hybrid BEHA fly

8 hours ago

Aiming to transform their concept into a real success, the Faradair team behind a six-seat Bio-Electric-Hybrid-Aircraft (BEHA) have taken this hybrid aircraft project into a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. ...

How polymer banknotes were invented

Nov 26, 2014

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and CSIRO's 20-year "bank project" resulted in the introduction of the polymer banknote – the first ever of its kind, and the most secure form of currency in the world. ...

Enabling the hearing impaired to locate human speakers

Nov 26, 2014

New wireless microphones systems developed at EPFL should allow the hearing impaired to aurally identify, even with closed eyes, the location of the person speaking. This new technology will be used in classrooms ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rgwalther
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.