Thursday, 23 July 2015

Writing - Car hacking - so what's next?




I watched a news programme this morning and was amazed to see an item about a Jeep Cherokee that had been taken over by computer hackers from the comfort of their own sofas.

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Hacked Jeep

The exercise of hacking the cars computer was an exercise in testing the security on the on-board computer. The hackers took over the wipers, indicators, brakes, turned off the engine, and caused it to run into a ditch - slowly!

This is interesting to writers on a number of counts. The inclusion of such possibilities has been shown in films in the past but there is a touch of reality in there now. It is an aspect of technology that can legitimately be explored in stories. For authors writing in the present in the adventure/thriller genres (is that the plural?) they have the opportunity to extend the idea of controlling vehicles to controlling a range of devices.

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The automated home

The above automated home has heating, window, entertainment, lighting, motion sensors and significantly, door and security controls. What fun could Ethan Small (Steele's techie) have with those types of hacking opportunities?

When you consider the levels of automation in our lives it is hardly surprising that the literary opportunities are developing alongside. Of course it isn't new. Isaac Asimov is one author who was well ahead of the game in creating the 3 laws of robotics. He had thought about the interaction between robots and humans existing and working in tandem and what was needed to keep that relationship stable. The film 'I Robot' explored what happens when that relationship breaks down, there was a particularly sinister scene that I enjoyed when the Robot was cutting vegetables in Will Smith's grandmother's kitchen. It embodied the insecurity humans have and the potential dominance of the automaton. 

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I Robot
However, in this modern era such robots are not yet available but automated devices certainly are. The previous landlord of my local pub had an automated vacuum cleaner which was pensioned off pretty early in its career - too many chairs and stools to be efficient.
You don't have to stretch the imagination too hard to put a surveillance device in a subject's automated cleaner. 

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Automated vac

A computer expert stated on TV that the increased opportunity for hacking was due in part to the increase in wireless and Bluetooth availability. It may have been intended for communication and entertainment but now that manufacturers are building those options into their products the hacking opportunities have grown exponentially.

As an author of stories in the modern world I feel the need to keep up. My younger son told me of 3D printers around three years ago and look where they've developed to - manufacture of prosthetics and more. They are almost 'old hat' and now things have leapt forward once more to the point where if you have a bump in the car you could claim that it wasn't you but you had your car hacked!

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God Bless