Skip to comments.Bush advisor: Hastings crash ‘consistent with a car cyberattack’
Posted on 06/26/2013 5:56:33 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
A former cybersecurity advisor to President George W. Bush says a sophisticated computer hack could have been the cause of the automobile accident that claimed the life of journalist Michael Hastings last week in Los Angeles.
Richard Clarke, a State Department official-turned-special advisor to several United States presidents, said the early morning auto crash last Tuesday was "consistent with a car cyberattack, raising new questions about the death of the award-winning journalist.
Hastings died last week when his 2013 Mercedes C250 coupe collided with a tree in Los Angeles, California on the morning of June 18. He was reportedly traveling at a high rate of speed and failed to stop at a red light moments before the single-car crash. He was only 33.
Speaking to Huffington Post this week, Clarke said that a cyberattack waged at the vehicle could have caused the fatal collision.
"What has been revealed as a result of some research at universities is that it's relatively easy to hack your way into the control system of a car, and to do such things as cause acceleration when the driver doesn't want acceleration, to throw on the brakes when the driver doesn't want the brakes on, to launch an air bag," Clarke told The Huffington Post. "You can do some really highly destructive things now, through hacking a car, and it's not that hard."
"So if there were a cyberattack on the car and I'm not saying there was," Clarke continued, "I think whoever did it would probably get away with it."
The Los Angeles Police Department said they dont expect foul play was involved in the crash, but an investigation has been opened nonetheless.
In an email reportedly sent by Hastings hours before the crash, he told colleagues that he thought he was the target of a federal investigation.
Hey [redacted}, the Feds are interviewing my close friends and associates, Hastings wrote 15 hours before the crash.
Also: Im onto a big story, and need to go off the rada[r] for a bit, he added. All the best, and hope to see you all soon.
The email was supplied to KTLA News in Los Angeles by Staff Sgt. Joseph Biggs, who says he met Hastings while the journalist was embedded in Afghanistan in 2008. It was reportedly send to a handful of Hastings associates and was blind-copied to Biggs.
I just said it doesnt seem like him. I dont know, I just had this gut feeling and it just really bothered me, Biggs told KTLA.
Reporters at Buzzfeed where Hastings worked say they received an email from their colleague, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a statement two days after Hastings death to quash rumors that they had been looking into the reporter.
At no time was Michael Hastings under investigation by the FBI, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
According to the Associated Press, however, Hastings fingerprints were on file with the FBI and were used by the bureau to identify his body after flames consumed much the auto wreckage last week.
"I believe the FBI when they say they weren't investigating him," Clarke told the Huffington Post. "That was very unusual, and I'm sure they checked very carefully before they said that."
"I'm not a conspiracy guy. In fact, I've spent most of my life knocking down conspiracy theories," he said. "But my rule has always been you don't knock down a conspiracy theory until you can prove it [wrong]. And in the case of Michael Hastings, what evidence is available publicly is consistent with a car cyberattack. And the problem with that is you can't prove it."
Clarke, 62, spent nearly two decades at the Pentagon before relocating to the White House where he served under President Ronald Reagan and both Presidents Bush. He served as special advisor to President George W. Bush on cybersecurity until leaving the administration in 2003 and is currently the chairman and CEO of Good Harbor Security Risk Management, LLC.
I think he was bombed. People living nearby reported feeling concussion and a "boom". No cyber hack will make a car blow up.
Maybe it was both.
I had this same experience when a full size pickup piloted by a drunk nailed a utility pole on my rural road at an estimated 45 mph. There DEFINITELY was a feeling of concussion and boom. I thought a bomb had gone off, it was stunning. And yes the engine was a long way down the road from the remains of the chassis.
There's video I saw as if a drum of gasoline was on fire.
I suspect the post it note is making a speedy comeback in newsrooms across America.
You sure it wasn’t a center fuel tank explosion, Richard?
Yup. Cars are intentionally designed now to come apart to dissipate energy in a crash. Thus 5 grand repair bils for minor impacts. 77 F 250s they arent.
Having recently done a ground up frame off rebuild on one, it is amazing the difference in materials from then to now.. They really don’t build’em like they used to.
In order for a hacker to alter the path of a vehicle, interfacing with the ABS, Steering, Stability control, Traction Control, etc. systems, there must be some system for real time interfacing with the vehicle control computers. I’m not aware of any vehicle systems having this type of communication system. It would have to be wireless, such as satellite phone, cell phone, or wide area Wi-Fi. To steer it into a pole, the hacker would require VERY FAST communication, including video.
All they have to do is take control of acceleration.
Other articles I’ve seen here say it’d be child’s play.
Best $100 I ever spent.
This is why I drive a 40 year old IH Scout. It’s built like a tank, geared like a dump truck, and has absolutely no computer control. And, I can carry all of tools I need to fix it in the back.
he said ‘consistent with’ ...
which means it’s not only possible... but used commonly enough to have a consistent and identifiable behavior
no tin foil required
Note to self: If I ever tell people I am working on ‘something big’ be sure to add “and I left instructions on how to find it in case of my death”
Usually, though, the engine keeps going in the direction the vehicle was headed at impact. Accounts at the time reported that the tree was relatively unhurt (usually the bark gets torn off in a violent collision), and that the engine/transmission had traveled at 90 degrees to the direction the car was going.
A few key numbers would help: The mass of the engine/transmission and the amount of momentum needed to launch it the distance traveled (as I recall about 150 feet).
Older Mercedes were tanks, but I'm not familiar with the construction of the newer ones. With crumple zones, etc, (not present when I was a Fireman), the absorption of energy by the deforming bodywork would tend to reduce the stresses on the motor mounts, etc. rather than the more severe stresses of a more rigid coachwork (where the engine would tend to keep moving at its previous velocity while the rest of the vehicle came to an abrupt halt.
With a crumple zone, the deceleration would be less sudden, and the stresses on motor mounts would be less.
Perhaps some FReepers who have better knowledge of the vehicle and its construction can shed some light on that.
If so, it could be determined how far the engine/transmission would likely travel at any given speed--and a minimum of how fast the vehicle would have to be traveling to toss one that far, not counting shearing the mounts.
If the numbers just don't fit, then the ejection of the engine/transmission (as shown by distance of travel) might have had some help beyond the basic physics of a car crash.
The other questionable aspect is the intense fire seen in the videos. When the engine left the vehicle, most of the electrical and fuel system should have been, pardon the expression, FUBAR. Without the primary source of heat or electricity, there should have been no fire. A massive fuel tank structural failure should have spread out more (a couple of gallons of gas can cover an amazing amount of pavement).
Sorry, but I think this needs closer scrutiny.
No no no. This was just an accident.
And Brietbart had a heart attack.
/no need, is there?
“24” called, Jack Bauer wants his plot device back.
How does the command get from the hacker to the car?
Not really. You just program the car to wait until X event has happened (eg driving over a certain speed) and the floor the accelerator while killing the brakes. Almost guarnated assassination.
It really is that easy.
Still don’t know why you couldn’t just turn off the key...
I think he cracked and committed suicide.
I already explained on another thread why this isn’t likely due to the way automotive control systems are designed. Of course FReepers believe any crap science that gets posted, unless it’s global warming. So live in fear of your Benz, if that’s what you believe. THere are infinitely more plausible explanations for this.
Have any of you all heard of “Onstar”? If they can GPS your location, turn your vehicle off or SLOW it down, then I’m sure with a little bit twiddling they could hack into a car’s system and have it do what they want. In fact, the Prius stuck accelerator fiasco may have just been practice.
Hastings sent that email saying “I’m going off the radar for a while.”
At 4am what compass direction was he traveling?
Was he rushing to LAX airport to catch a flight out of town around 6 or 7am?
Didn’t Wikileaks announce “Hastings contacted us the day he died?” Perhaps Hastings was headed to meet them in a foreign city, where he’d be “off the radar.”
The Ostapo could’ve bombed him or droned him in a hurry, since once he’s in the airport, they’d have to poison him or something “subtle.” Chasing him across the USA/Europe is difficult compared to LA.
Plus, the Marxists apparently control the LA Coroner office, since they got away with killing Breitbart AND arsenic-poisoning the damn Coroner Tech (Michael Cormier) who dropped dead within hours of his office releasing the Breitbart autopsy report to the public.
No updates on “arsenic-poisoned Coroner” folks? I guess that’s an everyday event. Won’t see that story on Unsolved Mysteries anytime soon.
Some witness said the Hastings car suddenly fishtailed. They could’ve remotely locked one front wheel (via ABS) while opening the throttle all the way. That would cause a fishtail. Waiting until he was traveling 50 or 60 mph would make a crash likely.
But instead of all this “NSA hacking the engine-management chip” stuff, any jackass could just stick some explosives in the dashboard and then trigger via remote control if Hastings made a move (like calling Wikileaks then rushing toward the airport) that NSA didn’t feel would brush Obama’s magic carpet the right way.
My friend in LA dropped a crapload of cash to purchase a 2007 Benz 500 SL.
The brakes failed while driving the curves on Mulholland.
She somehow drove off/up into a runoff area.
1-2 years later, she gets a similar Benz and trades that one in.
Guess what? The brakes on the new (similar) Benz failed in exactly the same way.
I think they’re brake-by-wire (electronic).
I told her to stop buying Benzes.
My 1984 Benz is an early 70’s design, when computers filled whole rooms.
I'm not a hacker but I suspect the key turn-off could be overriden. For example, in my truck with the key turned off, the windows and be rolled up and down, the radio still works, etc. UNTIL I lift the door handle. Then everything goes dead.
If the Benz had the equivalent of OnStar, that could provide access via wireless. We've all heard the OnStar commercials where the doors are unlocked via a wireless command.
Up thread there was some speculation about how the hacker could steer the car. The hacker doesn't need to. Kill the brakes. Turn off the airbag. Invoke maximum acceleration. Who cares where the car goes? The driver is dead on impact with almost anything.
IMHO, doing this wirelessly is the hard way. Much easier to hack the computer to react to some event such as going over x miles per hour. The hack could have been done while the car was in a parking lot or garage.
“Still dont know why you couldnt just turn off the key...”
Most luxe cars nowadays have push-button starters. The key fob sits in your pocket and the ignition system senses that it’s in the car.
Hitting that “START” button doesn’t seem like a reliable way to switch off a hacked car.
“Much easier to hack the computer to react to some event such as going over x miles per hour. The hack could have been done while the car was in a parking lot or garage.”
Exactly, just set the throttle to go ballistic “When the car reaches 45mph.” The driver will naturally steer to avoid obstacles as long as possible.... meanwhile the car continues to gain speed under full acceleration....
...until he runs out of road or approaches a turn he can’t make b/c he’s reached 80mph.
The odds of Hastings contacting Wikileaks, saying he’s going “off the radar,” then dying in a fiery car crash on the SAME DAY are extremely remote.
That’s about as likely as Soetoro being a Christian.
I’ve three so far. All fantastic. No problems. Best safety record and the interior and exterior luxury exquisite.
That was sure fast.
Compare that to FBI Director Robert Mueller's Congressional testimony regarding the IRS attacks on Conservatives where he seemingly didn't even know his own name five weeks after the fact.
This article includes description and patent numbers for a system that would move the engine under the floor and pedals. Note that it doesn't describe launching the engine at an unsuspecting public. I can imagine the slip and fall lawyers licking their lips over the possibilities.
In the real world of electricity, power systems, and the maintenance thereof, a mechanical disconnection means is necessary with a visible opening that can be manipulated and locked in the open/off position before something is considered "off" or de-energized. That ought to be a must on a vehicle.
I also have a car with a pushbutton start. Suppose it could be hacked by a pro, and I suppose that it could make things a bit dangerous (to say the least). I'm not expecting it, but it ought to be something that car manufacturers are cognizant of.
Not if the NSA is tracking the calls and internet activity.
Whatever happened here, Clarke is a buffoon.
Sorry, but you must not know much about modern cars.
First, most modern luxury cars don’t have a ignition interlock, and even if they did, the computer wins, since the ECM remains active even if the ignition key is off, if the engineers who designed the control system deem it so.
Secondly, most systems have ABS now. The solenoid for ABS can interrupt braking force to any given wheel in a modern car ... it’s part of the government mandated stability system. It can also *apply* brakes. My car, a 2012 Civic Si, actually did this tonight for me in a rain storm, to keep me from spinning into the ditch (low speed on wet road, but sport Michelins and rain water don’t get along).
Thirdly, most modern cars have a fly-by-wire throttle. The system simply has a sensor that tells it how far you have the accelerator pushed. The computer can choose to adjust the throttle plate via the servo, or not. This is also linked to the vehicle stability program. It allows the computer to maximize fuel economy (open the throttle all the way, turn off spark and fuel, and you waste a lot less energy on deceleration, just one scenario).
Fourth, many cars are shipping with electric power steering. Another computer controlled system, also under command of the stability program, you will not be able to steer against it.
Fifth, all these systems are networked, so they can figure out what is working and what is not, and can send control commands back and forth, modulating throttle, braking force, and steering force.
Sixth, a simple easter egg in the stability program could simply apply breaking force to one wheel, remove it from another. It does this all the time in normal operation. Having it fail spectacularly all at once wouldn’t be beyond the pale. It could also, ask the computer to go to maximum throttle.
I am a software engineer. Given the source code to these systems (or stolen source code for these systems -— do you really think Mercedes could keep NSA hackers out of their systems?), I could probably generate the hack in a day or less.
Even more interesting, is the fact that many systems are now sharing the same bus as the stability & ECM. Whose to say you couldn’t just upload the program using unintentional security gaps in the control software via the car’s Bluetooth interface, or key remote interface? It’s all possible if you have people paid lots of money to find these holes. Or at least stable day jobs to find these holes. Many hackers would jump at the chance of trying to pull off something like that.
When I read about him blowing through a stoplight at 100mph, this was my immediate thought on the matter, but I tend to not let my conspiracy mind out to play publicly, but I think it must be said this time.
So where do you get your technical info, seems as though it may be out of date?
If it makes the car go 140 MPH directly into a tree, it might.
Nice! We just bought a new GLK 350 and I love it!
Appears that the steering was very precise.
One of the nice things about diesel fuel is it doesn't burn like gasoline.
That's why military vehicles are all diesel, an ordinary accident won't make them burst into flames.
That takes an explosion to aerosolize the fuel...
Nut-job Conspiracy Theory Ping!
To get onto The Nut-job Conspiracy Theory Ping List you must threaten to report me to the Mods if I dont add you to the list...
Note that in the video of the crash fire, there is a gusher just ahead of the tree. That has to be a fire hydrant smashed off, causing damage to the underbody and gas tank prior to hitting the tree.