If you haven’t read this amazing article from Wired.com, you really must. We were as shocked, and slightly terrified, as anyone when we read about how easily thousands of FCA group cars could be remotely hacked. We were nervy about the thought of driverless cars, let alone a car controlled by a computer anywhere in the country. So it seems car hacking is now a real threat, and although it’s yet to happen in the UK, our stateside cousins are already acting on it.
Jeep cherokee hacked remotely by US Hackers
If you’re too time-shy to read the full article, it basically describes how American hacker duo Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek managed to figure out how to remotely hack Chrysler’s computer system: Uconnect. Thanks to a vulnerable element in the car’s computer (the bit that allows you to connect your phone, access WiFi, and control the entertainment), anyone who knows the car’s IP address can gain access from anywhere in the country. Once they have this, the opportunities are endless: unlock doors, control the windscreen wipers, start the car, control the radio system, mess with the climate control – they can even cut the transmission completely. The FCA group uses Uconnect in thousands of its vehicles, so I’m guessing they were an odd mixture of seething and grateful when they heard the news.
Legislation called for by US congress
Such was the seriousness of the hacking threat that US congress were forced to act. Senators Markey & Blumenthal soon after called for legislation to “establish federal standards to secure our cars and protect drivers’ privacy”. Chrysler has also recalled 1.4 million vehicles. It’s obvious that car manufacturers need to treasure these hackers, pay them, and take them under their wing. Much like how the tech industry accepts hackers amongst their own kind, so must car companies follow in their footsteps and curate relationships with these tech-geniuses.
As cars become more and more technologically advanced, and hooked up to every gadget we own, so the threat of hacking grows. Unless car makers start investing as much time into protecting the technologies they are so keen to release, so these guys will keep coming up with innovative ways to hijack them.
I’m feeling pretty smug I drive a naff yet unhackable Renault Megane right now…
It was only a matter of time before this happened. Any computer system that is fed data from an external source is vulnerable to hacking, and the most talented hackers are usually at least a step ahead of software security and data protection systems.
In that connection, we need only look at the tragic disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight M370 for a warning. Although there’s no evidence that the lost flight was cyber-jacked, the mere fact that such a scenario is regarded by many experts as credible is deeply worrying. If it lies within the realms of possibility for hackers to cyber-jack an aircraft, they can surely tamper with the electronic systems found, to a greater or lesser degree, on all modern cars.
Electronic systems are an integral part of modern life, but history shows us that a headlong rush to embrace new technology does not come without risk. Is it now time for the risks confronting us to be looked at with clear eyes and sober minds? I believe it is.
Imagine over the next 10 years as everything else in our lives IP addresses. What a crazy place it will be for cyber security.