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Jeep Car Hacking Raises New Safety Concerns

Jeep Car Hacking Raises New Safety Concerns

We’ve all heard the sensational news around the two cyber-sleuths who managed to car-hack a Jeep Cherokee on I-64 in St. Louis.  While “playfully” adjusting the stereo, air conditioning and windshield wipers, these new-age “self-professed messiahs” also cut the transmission sending the volunteer driver, a reporter from Wired magazine, into a potentially dangerous situation.

The car-hackers’ goal?  To bring public awareness to a very serious issue that could affect millions of vehicles on the road today.  According to the hackers, Charlie Miller, a Twitter employee based in St. Louis, and Chris Valasek, a director at the security firm IOActive:

If consumers don’t realize this is an issue, they should. This might be the kind of software bug most likely to kill someone. 
Charlie Miller         
A New Age of Vehicle Safety

Enter a new age of safety threats.  Where automakers previously concentrated safety concerns on air bags, seat belts, reinforced steel frames, crash ratings and such; today’s cyberworld is now challenging them to prevent wireless takeover and hacking.    So much so that new legislation is being enacted under the precedence that consumers should not have to “choose between being connected and being protected.”

Vehicle Entertainment Systems Serve as Gateway

Creating this cyber safety threat is consumer’s desire to stay connected, even while driving.  In the last 5 years, automakers have heightened their competitive appeal through more and more sophisticated entertainment systems supported by in-vehicle connectivity providers such as OnStar and UConnect.  In fact, modern cars have as many as fifty low-powered computers – all hackable – including wifi, Bluetooth, SatNav, information screens and more.

Compounding the Safety Issue

Whatever side of the issue you may be on regarding the hackers’ tactics, they did work with Fiat Chrysler over the last 9 months to create a safety patch.  As part of FCA’s July 16th  1.4 million vehicle recall, this patch prevents uncontrolled wireless hacking on 2013 and later Jeep Cherokees, Dodge Vipers, Dodge Challengers, Ram pickups, Dodge Chargers and Dodge Durangos.

To further publicize their concerns, Miller and Valasek released an incomplete version of their code at the Black Hat Conference this week in Las Vegas, August 1 – 6.  Their goal is to seek peer review amongst the conference’s primary demographic of security practitioners, and further “force the hands” of automakers

Consumer Reaction

As wireless car hacking continues to dominate the news, Kelley Blue Book implemented a recent consumer survey on the topic.  Surprisingly, their findings indicated only moderate concern and a hesitation that OEMs will be able to develop a permanent solution.  More specifically:

  • 72 percent said they are aware of the recent Jeep Cherokee hacking incident.
  • 41 percent said they will consider this recent vehicle hacking incident when buying/leasing their next car.
  • 78 percent said vehicle hacking will be a frequent problem in the next three years or less.
  • 33 percent classified vehicle hacking as a “serious” problem; 35 percent classified it as a “moderate” problem.
  • 58 percent do not think there will ever be a permanent solution to vehicle hacking.
  • 41 percent think pranking is the most common reason for hacking a vehicle; 37 percent think theft is the most common reason for hacking a vehicle.
What Does This Mean for You

It is in the automakers’ hands as to how they proceed. However, you are the face of the automaker to the consumer.  For this reason, it seems wise to educate yourself on the situation and, together with your Service partners, be able to answer questions from concerned vehicle owners.  Vehicle hacking is a hot topic – and safety issue – that is here to stay.

By: OEC Staff | August 27th, 2015

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Posted in: Industry News