Can’t Hack Your Car? Someone Can.
One of the biggest stories in July was one you might have missed.
Two security researchers, reportedly relaxing on a couch with their laptops, hijacked a Chrysler Jeep Cherokee, shutting down its engine. The person driving the car, a writer for WIRED magazine, knew that the researchers would try something, so the driver was prepared . . . sort of, considering an 18-wheeler was bearing down on the Jeep. (Don’t worry, nothing happened.)
By knowing the car’s I.P. address (its network address on the Internet), the researchers were able to use the Jeep’s dashboard entertainment system as a gateway to hack the car’s steering, brakes, and transmission.
Imagine this happening on a grand scale. Are you scared yet?
The Internet of Things
People like to talk about The Internet of Things: refrigerators that can add milk to your shopping list because it records that your supply is low, for example. Perhaps your first reaction is, “Cool!” And it is cool.
But these things can be hacked.
A hacked refrigerator—even a hundred thousand hacked refrigerators—is more about a privacy breach of your data than some spoiled roast chicken leftovers. Yes, someone stealing your data is a real problem. But it’s not the same kind of problem as riding in a car that is no longer under your control.
How would you feel about someone hacking your car, taking over the controls when you are driving 65 miles per hour? When your steering and brakes are no longer under your control?
A Recall, and a Fix That Isn’t
Because of this remote hijacking possibility, Chrysler recalled 14 million vehicles for the security flaw. Yet Chrysler is unable to patch the core software problem, so they offered three options for owners to update their vehicles. One of those options is to use the USB stick that Chrysler is mailing directly to owners.
A lot of tech experts see this is a really bad choice on Chrysler’s part. It assumes the owner will be able to follow over a dozen complicated steps to download, build, and install the software patch. “That is the dumbest move I have heard of in a long time,” said the founder of Krypton Security in an email. “It’s like if, after surgery, the doctor forgets a pair of scissors in your stomach, and when you find out, he just sends you a scalpel to fix it yourself.”
Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal introduced legislation that’s supposed to require cars to meet standards with regard to protection against hacking and privacy concerns. The legislation would tell the National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration and the Federal Trade Commission to jointly create new standards with which U.S. automakers would be required to comply.
“Drivers shouldn’t have to choose between being connected and being protected,” Senator Markey wrote in a statement shared with Wired magazine. “Controlled demonstrations show how frightening it would be to have a hacker take over controls of a car. We need clear rules of the road that protect cars from hackers and American families from data trackers.”
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