A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

OReGO: No hacking is possible

Written October 1st, 2015 by Hasso Hering

truck 007

Oregon’s program of collecting a mileage fee instead of the gas tax is catching on more slowly than I had thought. But one of my concerns — that it might be vulnerable to computer hackers — appears to be unfounded.

ODOT is authorized to sign up up to 5,000 vehicles under the program, known as OReGO, which started in July. The idea is to show how a mileage fee can work on a scale far bigger than previous experiments and tests had shown.

Michelle D. Godfrey of ODOT told me Thursday — before the news became dominated by the Umpqua Community College massacre, which makes all other public issues temporarily irrelevant  — that 908 participants had enrolled. My 2007 GMC truck is one of them. So there’s a long way to go before the participation goal is reached. If you want to try it, go to https://www.myoregoaccount.org and sign up.

Over the last few weeks, I had read or heard news reports of the possibility that today’s increasingly computerized motor vehicles could be hacked, that is manipulated by outsiders who gain access to the onboard computer systems.

The mileage fee program works with devices that are plugged into vehicles’ data ports and report the number of miles driven via the mobile phone network. I wondered whether the devices could also be used to send commands to the vehicles and would be open to potential hackers. I asked Godfrey about this, specifically in regard to the mileage rercording device installed in my truck, which is managed by a company named Sanef ITS America in conjunction with Intelligent Mechatronics Systems.

Godfrey’s reply: “Sanef/IMS and ODOT have worked together to ensure the security of the driving data Sanef/IMS collects and transmits through the MRD (mileage reporting device). The MRD is intentionally locked into a single dedicated communication channel that can exchange data only with IMS’ secure infrastructure. No communication can be initiated into the MRD from an external source or outside party. In addition, the vehicle interface used by the MRD is strictly controlled and no vehicle safety/control systems are accessible by the MRD.”

As technical as that sounds, the answer is that no, I don’t have to worry about some hacker taking control of my truck. (hh)

4 responses to “OReGO: No hacking is possible”

  1. Bob Woods says:

    I will rest easier knowing that your truck is safe from Vladimir Putin’s control. ;-)

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Dream on.

    Notwithstanding ODOT’s canned bureaucratic reply, any computing device made by a human that is hooked up to a power source can be hacked by another human.

    All it takes is intellectual curiosity and the thrill of the hunt.

    • Bob Woods says:

      Notwithstanding Gordon Shadle’s knee jerk anti-government reply, that statement is false.

      Hooking up to the internet can make a device subject to attack. Allowing folks to make physical connections to a device can make it subject to attack. But a device that only has a TX transmission channel and does not have an RX receiving communication channel physically present in the device cannot be accessed externally. Why? Because it is totally deaf. It can’t perceive anything talking to it. Unless you believe it can read lips.

      Just hooking up to a power source means NOTHING.

      Now, can Hasso’s truck itself be hacked? Well if it’s got OnStar or similar radio based communication capabilities built in by the manufacturer, yeah it can be potentially hacked. That just happened to Jeep and they are scrambling for a fix.

      But that IS NOT the MRD device that Hasso has riding under his dash.

      Intellectual curiosity is not in your wheelhouse Gordon. Neither is science. However, you are extremely good at taking anything that occurs in the world and turning it into ant-government propaganda. Even when you’re wrong.

  3. Bill Kapaun says:

    A lot of banks, the US govt. and others didn’t think they could be hacked either.


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