a reply to: MindBodySpiritComplex
Apparently hacking a truck is ridiculously easy.
Not so much. Apparently writing an Internet article is easier.
Semis do have access to all those commands through the OBD port, as do most private vehicles. That much is true. They also rely on an industry
standard protocol unlike private vehicles. True as well. What your article doesn't say is how access to these ports is accomplished.
Most OTR commercial vehicles are operated by large trucking companies, typically having hundreds or even thousands of trucks on the move at any one
time. Since the drivers are pretty much all on their own when driving, a standard was developed to allow control of trucks remotely. However, it does
not use the Internet. The Internet would be useless to a moving vehicle where there was no open-key WiFi available (which is most locations). Instead,
they use a special satelite network operated by Qualcomm.
Qualcomm units inside the truck connect directly to the OBD port and serve as communication devices primarily. They can send and receive text
communications, and they can report back when something happens... for instance, what the fuel level is for fuel routing, if there was a hard braking
event, maximum speed in the last time period, average speed in the last time period, etc. It is technologically possible to access the truck's systems
using Qualcomm, but it's more complex than what the article describes.
First: you have to break into the Qualcomm network. That in itself is a problem, because Qualcomm only allows Internet access from predefined entry
points (trucking companies that use their consoles).
Second: you have to find your truck. While I am not familiar with the actual protocols that Qualcomm uses, I strongly suspect it is similar to the
IP-based protocol used on the Internet... except in this case there is no need for user-friendly domain names. A hacker would need to know what
company the truck was owned by and the truck number, then gain access to the DNS-equivalent in the Qualcomm network to get the IP for that truck.
Third: The Qualcomm unit must have been preset to allow remote control signals. Most are not. A typical Qualcomm unit is programmed in a company shop
(or by Qualcomm itself in the case of small companies) and requires direct wired access to the console. This access is typically used to limit maximum
speeds (the truck shuts off fuel if it tries to move too fast). When I left the industry a few years ago,a few places were experimenting with allowing
dispatch to shut down the truck completely, but there was major concern over safety, as such a shutdown in heavy traffic could easily have serious
The suggested solution was a remote shutdown that would not engage until the truck stopped. So far as I know (and I still talk to active drivers from
time to time, as well as receive the OOIDA magazine), no one has fully implemented even a remote shutdown after stop.
Fourth: not all trucks have Qualcomm. Qualcomm is mostly used for OTR (Over The Road, aka long-haul) trucks, typically semis. It is an expensive
system to install and maintain.
someone had access to the Qualcomm network, and IF
that someone had the IP-equivalent address ofthe truck in question, and
someone had knowledge of the proper engine control codes, and IF
the truck was connected to the Qualcomm network, and IF
someone was accessing a truck which had the controls enabled prior, then it is POSSIBLE
to tell the truck to stop. Where the truck stops is
another concern, because even the Qualcomm network does not work perfectly 100% of the time. If I had a dime for every time dispatch called me worried
that something was wrong because the Qualcomm showed me where I was 5 hours ago, I'd have a whole lot of dimes. The system works well to operate under
such horrible conditions as it has to endure, but it is not perfect... far from it.
No, no one hacked into the garbage truck while it was on the tracks. I have yet to see a garbage truck even equipped with a Qualcomm.