Gaël Musquet, attacking the car aggressors

After listening to this column, you will not close the car again in the same way! Imagine … your parked vehicle starts suddenly without anyone behind the wheel! Perhaps then you will think of the perpetrator of this crime, Gaël Musquet. The Frenchman, originally from Guadeloupe where he was hit by a hurricane when he was a child, is now a meteorologist. And he combines his two passions: risk management and computer science. Everything at the service of transport. It was also in early April, in the competition for hackers (or hackers) in Rennes, Brittany, that Gaël Musquet created the event. Find yourself.

RFI: To take control of a car, you introduced the systems of remotely connected tools … Which tools?

Gael Musquet: it’s not complicated! That goes for the key, the tires, the radio, the mirrors. Today all these tools are connected to the servers of manufacturers and equipment manufacturers. A professional like me can go through the wires behind your mirrors!

And the cell phone?

Obviously! It is even the easiest tool for a hacker to take control of. Imagine, when driving, either via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to listen to the radio or your music. Everything, I mean everything, goes through your phone as it allows you to call while driving without getting your hands off the steering wheel.

But these individual vehicle tricks, from Mr. and Mrs. Everyone, they still look weird these days, don’t they?

Think again! They exist and the trend, with increasingly dematerialized orders (closing doors with the phone, etc.) is only increasing. The main reason for hacking a car today is to steal it remotely, opening the doors! As a result, the hacker managed to break into the system. So you can take control of your key. Especially if you use the phone, as there is, for example, to lock the car.

They fear future attacks, even mass vehicle hijackings. Mafia and terrorist group operations. But to achieve what?

There are several forms of risk. Imagine the catastrophe of an avalanche of traffic accidents. Or change vehicle directions. Or even a total traffic stop. Highway blockade. This will depend on the purpose of the cybercriminals.

Is it possible to paralyze an entire city today?

Yes! In any case, it is a risk. It is enough for hackers to break into the system of a vehicle connected to the manufacturer’s server, which is connected to other motorists. Stopping all vehicles (cars, trucks, etc.) from seizing your GPS (Road Guidance System) is not science fiction, it is possible today and it will be even more so tomorrow, with autonomous cars or even more connected than today.

So, if I understand correctly, can you hack a car only with the presence of the mobile phones or computers of the passengers? Just being in the car …


Hence the importance, you say, of warning professionals but also the general public, these ladies and gentlemen All!

This is my struggle! The struggle of all hackers who, like me, work to serve the population, the consumers.

But then what advice to avoid this remote piracy?

Same with the simple gestures you have to use with your computer or tablet at home! Do not click on any email, do not open unknown links on the Internet … Precautions to be taken every day.

Like a bathroom sink. Also, experts like you talk about computer hygiene … How to brush your teeth!

It’s the same! Once you get used to it, it’s child’s play! The most important thing is to ask yourself a question when you see an unknown address or email.

You will publish files in France, intended for the general public.

Yes, our children’s generation really needs to be warned of the risks. It’s about instilling the basic reflexes that make it harder to steal or attack vehicles. Another example, for car keys, there are radiation shields on the market …

About the model of bank credit card protectors?

Yes! It is also useful to know that you can buy these accessories that slow down the speed of breaking into a car, just like an anti-theft device, you have to slow down the speed and ease of penetration of a car to counter hackers.

Is the autonomous transport market (buses, taxis, cars, trucks, planes, trains, drones …) what gives you the feeling of urgency?

Yes. Although autonomous traffic is not for now. One day it will come. And in the meantime, there will be stages. We must not let the faults settle near the constructions of these new cars or trucks or trains, planes, boats …

Do they refer to all types of transport?

All without exception! Transport pirates attack new drones on the market as well as simple cars, all types of transport go there. Recent major sea attacks on cargo ships (freight transport) have led to rescue demands. By domino effect, the action of these criminal gangs will affect all customers who own property on these vessels.

One of your other concerns is car rental.

It is one of the favorite gates of pirates. As soon as you enter the car, if you want to access GPS or Bluetooth, the car computer will ask you to connect to the phone.

In that case, should we refuse?

Obviously! Especially if you have your work emails or sensitive data on your I phone.

However, in 2017, France created an Intelligent Transport Observatory, does that mean it was useless?

Without going so far, I would say that in France there is a lack of culture of cyber risk!

The general public or the manufacturers of means of transport?

Both of you ! It would be necessary (as is the case with our European neighbors, in Germany for example) to bring together all the actors in the chain. From the manufacturer to the mechanic to the equipment supplier. To educate them about the risks. They will then decide on firewall systems to prevent theft. It would change the way you design your vehicles.

Is France lagging behind Europeans or countries in the world?

Too late yes! In the US, or elsewhere in Europe, we can see manufacturers lending cars to hackers! These competitions encourage hackers like me to find bugs in cars. Builders would save time. So money avoiding mistakes and the risk of having to redo models.

Who do you work for today?

For the automotive industry. For the merchant navy, for the space sector with the CNES (National Center for Space Studies), but also for the Ministry of Defense, a very effective collaboration.

Let’s talk about your future. Take advantage of your experience on the new Puteaux cyber campus near Paris.

I’m very happy with that. It is a new school where young people can learn about the risks of computer attacks. These are transports such as sensitive buildings or new tools that will affect our daily lives (home, transport, city, etc.).

It’s pretty fun. But it is really your job as a meteorologist that has pushed you into piracy. Hack to avoid being hacked!

That’s right! Maybe it’s tied to my childhood in Guadeloupe. From a young age, I was traumatized by the violence of hurricanes. The number of human deaths and material damage they can cause. I made the mix, time coupled with my second passion, IT!

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