Can You Trust Autonomous Vehicles: Contactless Attacks against Sensors of Self-driving Vehicle

Presented at DEF CON 24 (2016), Aug. 7, 2016, 1 p.m. (60 minutes)

To improve road safety and driving experiences, autonomous vehicles have emerged recently, and they can sense their surroundings and navigate without human inputs. Although promising and proving safety features, the trustworthiness of these cars has to be examined before they can be widely adopted on the road. Unlike traditional network security, autonomous vehicles rely heavily on their sensory ability of their surroundings to make driving decision, which opens a new security risk. Thus, in this talk we examine the security of the sensors of autonomous vehicles, and investigate the trustworthiness of the 'eyes' of the cars. In this talk, we investigate sensors whose measurements are used to guide driving, i.e., millimeter-wave radars, ultrasonic sensors, forward-looking cameras. In particular, we present contactless attacks on these sensors and show our results collected both in the lab and outdoors on a Tesla Model S automobile. We show that using off-the-shelf hardware, we are able to perform jamming and spoofing attacks, which caused the Tesla's blindness and malfunction, all of which could potentially lead to crashes and greatly impair the safety of self-driving cars. To alleviate the issues, at the end of the talk we propose software and hardware countermeasures that will improve sensor resilience against these attacks.


  • Chen Yan - PhD student, Zhejiang University
    Chen Yan is a PhD student at Zhejiang University in the Ubiquitous System Security Laboratory. His research focuses on the security and privacy of wireless communication and embedded systems, including automobile, analog sensors, and IoT devices.
  • Wenyuan Xu - Professor, Electrical Engineering, Zhejiang University
    Wenyuan Xu is a professor in the College of Electrical Engineering at Zhejiang University and an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at University of South Carolina. She received her Ph.D. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Rutgers University in 2007. Her research interests include wireless security, network security, and IoT security. She is among the first to discover vulnerabilities of tire pressure monitor systems in modern automobiles and automatic meter reading systems. Dr. Xu received the NSF Career Award in 2009. She has served on the technical program committees for several IEEE/ACM conferences on wireless networking and security, and she is an associated editor of EURASIP Journal on Information Security.
  • Jianhao Liu - Director of ADLAB, Qihoo 360
    Jianhao Liu is the director of ADLAB at Qihoo 360. He specializes in the security of Internet of Things and Internet of Vehicles. He has reported a security vulnerability of Tesla Model S, led a security research on the remote control of a BYD car, and participated in the drafting of security standards among the automobile society. Being a security expert employed by various information security organizations and companies, he is well experienced in security service, security evaluation, and penetration test.


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