Hackers are smart. Could they hack a self-driving car through its CD drive? From what I understand, malicious code could be uploaded to the driverless car via CD which could give them access to brakes, windscreen wipers, sensors, etc. (all of which could be used to potentially commit murder or hold the car ransom).
Not on a well-designed car
The CD player is part of the media system. It's likely that the media system has a number of security vulnerabilities, and a malicious CD can probably take control of the media system. It would be difficult to fix this without either greatly increasing the cost, or restricting the functionality of this.
The car control systems - the CAN bus - should be strongly separated from the media systems. In previous attacks, like Jeep hacking, attackers have been able to break across from the media system to the CAN bus. However, this represents poor design and implementation. The two systems should be kept separate - or at least, have a highly restricted interface - and it is possible to do that at reasonable cost.
Whether any future driverless cars will be well designed remains to be seen.
Yes, it would.
Researchers from UC San Diego actually implemented an attack through this vector:
“We found a flaw in a CD player in our car,” he said. “You could pick a song and code it in a way that if you played on your PC it’ll play fine, but if you play it in your car, it’ll take it over.”
Most probably this is through a memory corruption vulnerability in the meta information tags in the audio file. Through this they were probably able to direct commands to the CAN system that regulates the car.
"Security and Privacy Vulnerabilities of In-Car Wireless Networks: A Tire Pressure Monitoring System Case Study"
We also found out that current implementations do not appear to follow basic security practices. Messages are not authenticated and the vehicle ECU also does not appear to use input validation. We were able to inject spoofed messages and illuminate the low tire pressure warning lights on a car traveling at highway speeds from another nearby car, and managed to disable the TPMS ECU by leveraging packet spoofing to repeatedly turn on and off warning lights.
Speaking from personal experience here, not a snowballs chance in hell.
I was part of a team that wrote a fully new device stack for an automotive infotainment system back in 2008. Quite a while ago, but even then we understood the critical need to protect our software stack.
Our problem was made worse because the system ran (and runs) on Linux. And we fully complied with the GPL 2 terms, which means that you could put in a self-developed code and the car would accept that.
However, this was specifically not a security risk because the car used a digital signature system. Your own code would run, but the car simply refused to talk to your software. And it didn't listen anyway - the infotainment system at best had read-only access to a small set of enumerated data items such as the car speed.
I know that our system was at the cutting edge of automotive engineering at the time, and the already mentioned Jeep hack happened later. That's not really surprising. There's quite a bit of legacy going on, clean sheet redesigns aren't that common. Jeep is of course a minor brand of a struggling company, so it doesn't come as a big surprise that they are lagging. But that wouldn't be a brand which you'd expect would first produce a driverless car - the chief suspects would more healthy companies (could be Mercedes, could be Toyota, and of course Tesla)
Security on self driving cars are becoming a trending topic, as cars get more and more software.
The more code and hardware there is the more exposed is the system because the surface of attack is bigger. That said I wouldn't worry too much about the CD drive. Most recent self driving car will be connected to the internet to get various data (weather, traffic, stream music, sync calendar, etc etc). If a car were to be targeted cd wouldn't be a wise choice, and like you said, hacker are smart so they would probably target more modern and open doors to the outside world.
That said, let's pretend there is a flow in your cd drive: the hacker would have to make you download a song, make you burn it to a CD and then hope you'll play it on your self driving car - So if you don't download dodgy files it's basically impossible for them and definitely not worth the effort...
One last thing to add is that the song itself could give somme voice commands to the car if it is compatible (like what they have done for phones). Again you would have to get the song from a dodgy source and this doesn't allow to do something that is not designed to work with the voice interface. So it's pretty unlikely that a song will tell your car to break...
From a developper point of view, I think that self driving cars won't be 100% bulletproof, but they will (and already are) be much much much safer that human operated cars. This is just because a computer has a shorter response time, it is never drunk, sleepy or distracted, it has much more senses. you rely on a 200-220° optical field of view, the computer can rely on a 360 camera system coupled with long range radars, proximity sensor etc...
Let's be honest, when we launch a rocket, it's operated by a computer, not a human, there is a reason for that.
I hope it helped you better understand the risks and be less scared of self driving car.
If it is connected to the systems that run the car, then anything is possible.
If it is not connected, e.g. it is a Discman, then no.