Self-driving cars spoofed with light beams and $60 device

SI_StackedLogoDr. Jonathan Petit, Security Innovation’s Principal Scientist, was able to spoof two kinds of sensors used in self-driving cars in tests at the University of Twente in The Netherlands. Petit spoofed an autonomous vehicle (AV) into thinking there were other cars and pedestrians around it, stopping the vehicle in its tracks using $60 worth of equipment. His findings were presented at Black Hat Europe. Petit’s team found that they could attack the sensors through blinding, jamming, replay, relay, and spoofing attacks.

All AV’s use Light Imaging Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) to detect objects, including an obstacle on the road. Any attack that “fools” sensors into thinking an object is in its path can cause a fake warning or trigger an emergency brake. Petit and his team relayed the original signal sent from the target vehicle LiDAR from another position to create fake echoes, and eventually, make real objects appear closer or further than their actual locations. They then extended the attack to create fake objects. The researchers captured the LiDAR signal and duplicated it, to actively spoof the LiDAR with the intention to replay objects and control their position.

The camera reads traffic signs, road lines and other elements relevant for driving. Cameras were blinded by emitting light into the camera, which overexposes the image and hides the object from the autonomous system. In another attack, Petit’s team hit the camera with bursts of light that confused the camera controls and in some cases, the camera never recovers.

Petit’s report found that, resilience of AV sensors against attacks is a key challenge. He reported that any attack that degrades sensor data can cause false driving reaction leading potentially to accidents and fatalities .

Petit proposed software and hardware countermeasures to improve sensors resilience against these attacks.

Consumer Watchdog wants to make sure that the California DMV and the Feds don’t rush to make laws surrounding self-driving cars. Just imagine how upsetting it would be to get injured in a crash because a kid took a laser pointer and knocked out the camera on your Tesla S.