Juha Saarinen is a tech blogger for nzherald.co.nz.

Juha Saarinen: Hacking that hoopty

Tech blogger Juha Saarinen takes a look at the most hackable cars and reviews the Netcomm Wireless NP507 adapter.
The 2014 Toyota Prius is one of the most hackable cars according to a new report. Photos / Thinkstock, APN
The 2014 Toyota Prius is one of the most hackable cars according to a new report. Photos / Thinkstock, APN

Modern cars are chocca with electronics, computers and networks and that makes them potential hacking targets.

In case you're worried about this, researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek presented a list of the current most hackable cars at the Black Hat security conference recently.

These include:
Jeep Cherokee 2014 model year
Cadillac Escalade 2015
Toyota Prius 2014
Nissan Infiniti Q50 2014

The most secure cars were:
Dodge Viper
Audi A8
Honda Accord

Miller and Valasek note that hackers could do a whole lot of Very Evil Things remotely. This could be little things like turning on microphones for handsfree kits to really bad stuff like turning the steering wheel and disabling brakes.

Hacking the cars require getting into their networks, something the pair has managed to do in the past.

If everything in the car is on the same network, hacking vehicles is easier. Audis apparently keep steering and other functions on separate networks, so hacking them is harder.

While I doubt car hacking will be commonplace, does the radio really have to be able to talk to the brakes?

Nebulous computing

If you weren't clear on what cloud computing entails, well... IBM's diagram above isn't going to help you. As posted by Big Blue on Twitter.

Best response:

Gear: NetComm Wireless NP507 600Mbps Homeplug network adapter

My powerline networking set-up with two Netgear 200 Mbps adapters has been working fine, allowing me to have a second Wi-Fi access point upstairs providing decent performance and more importantly, no more coverage dead spots.

Being me, I was curious if I could do better here: the Netgear stuff's pretty old and even though they connected at 170/150Mbps to one another, they're limited by the 100Mbps Fast Ethernet wired connector.

So when I spotted two Netcomm Wireless NP507 adapters for $185 a pair including GST, I thought "why not?" and got them. On paper, they'd speed things up quite a bit with a gigabit Ethernet interface and an advertised 600Mbps connection speed.

That speed promise turned out to be massively exaggerated. The best I could achieve were with the NP507s connected to two sockets nearby (on the same circuit), and that was around 315Mbps up and down.

Not bad, and while I didn't expect to see 600Mbps speeds, I didn't think only half of that was possible, based on my experience with the Netgear adapters.

Moving the adapters further away so that I could use them as intended dropped the speed even more, down to around 210Mbps which is a little disappointing.

To get the high speeds, the NP507 adapters use a fat chunk of frequency spectrum, ranging from 1.8MHz to 68MHz.

Looking at the powerline spectrum graph in my Fritzbox router revealed that even close by, the NP507s didn't manage to signal very well to each other at frequencies above approximately 30MHz.

Further away, the signal in the higher frequencies above 30MHz disappeared almost completely. With it went the high connection speeds, unfortunately.

Whether or not the low performance is due to the NP507s or my wiring remains to be seen, but I suspect it'll be up to me to figure it out.

NetComm Wireless provides no diagnostics tools and their tech support didn't understand what the issue was and asked if my Internet router was providing good speeds which had absolutely nothing to do with the problem of the signal weakening dramatically with distance, even though it's meant to reach 200 metres as per specifications.

That was the last I heard from Netcomm Wireless on the topic, even though I asked again for further information. Based on that support experience which is the polar opposite of the excellent and quick response I got from Netgear, I cannot recommend NetComm Wireless.

- NZ Herald

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Juha Saarinen is a tech blogger for nzherald.co.nz.

Juha Saarinen is a technology journalist and writer living in Auckland. Apart from contributing to the New Zealand Herald over the years, he has written for the Guardian, Wired, PC World, Computerworld and ITnews Australia, covering networking, hardware, software, enterprise IT as well as the business and social aspects of computing. A firm believer in the principle that trying stuff out makes you understand things better, he spends way too much time wondering why things just don’t work.

Read more by Juha Saarinen

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