Car hacking seems to have moved to the next level as it no longer requires a physical connection to the electrical system of the car in order to hijack it.
Ever since that 2010 case of a disgruntled employee, who wirelessly accessed over 100 cars, there has never been another case of remote hacking of cars. However, this changed just last week when two security researchers, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, took matters in their own hands and went ahead to expose the security vulnerabilities in a 2014 Jeep Cherokee. This happened on a St. Louis highway with Wired writer Andy Greenberg behind at the wheel and according to them, it is only meant to bring out the flaws in smart cars and just how dangerous they can be.
Miller is a security researcher at Twitter and Valasek is a director of auto security research with IOActive. The pair is not new in this field and they first made headlines about two years ago when they managed to hack a car and take control of some features, for instance, honking, killing brakes, cinching seat belts as well as controlling the steering wheel. These were tested on a Toyota Prius and Ford Escape, but they were seated in the backseat of the cars with laptops physically connected to the vehicles.
Car makers should be on the alert
The latest tests by the two researchers are meant to scare or rather warn car makers of their weak systems that can easily be hacked. The two were seated in Miller’s basement, about 10 miles from the car and thanks to the security flaw in the Uconnect infotainment system, they were able to blast the AC, tune the radio, crank the sound system, toy around with the windshield wipers and even post a picture on the display screen inside the car.
To make sure that car manufacturers really got what they wanted them to get, they went ahead and disabled the transmission, something that meant the Jeep lost its acceleration. Later on when the Chrysler Jeep was parked in the lot, they disabled the brakes and as a result, the car slid into a ditch with Greenberg, still seated behind the wheel, unable to do anything to save the car.
Even though car hacking practices are not very common, the fact that it is possible should send a stern message to car manufacturers out there about the potential of cyber security. This is true especially when you consider the number of computer-based cars on the roads today. With this new form of wireless hacking of cars, many will be on the alert. Any person who thinks about security of their high-tech cars must already have thought about this possibility. It is no longer a simple thought; instead, it has become a reality.