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Can Hackers Crash My Car?

finger on dashboard with gps panel and tv/dvd/audio systemSome recent car-hacking research unveiled in a WIRED article read like something out of a terrifying sci-fi movie. A late-model Jeep Cherokee driven by a reporter and test-dummy Andy Greenberg suddenly goes rogue as “hackers” tap into the car’s internal network. The tech-savvy hackers first tamper with the Jeep’s air conditioning, before changing the radio station and bumping up the volume to full blast. Next, they play with the car’s windshield wipers, but then things suddenly get more serious. Greenberg reports that the Jeep’s accelerator stops working, causing him to crawl along on a busy St. Louis overpass.

Fortunately, Greenberg’s experience was a demonstration designed by none other than the “hackers” themselves — professional security researchers who develop software patches to make smart cars less vulnerable to such breaches. The simulation raises an important question about the security and safety of passenger cars that boast a range of Internet-connected features. Can a malicious hacker tamper with your brakes, your steering and other critical features, causing your car to crash? Technically, the ability is there in some models, but there have been no reports of vehicles being taken over remotely by hackers to date.

Researchers simulate remote car hacking

The WIRED article has been labeled “scare-tactic” journalism by some critics, but many others underscore its value in highlighting the potential dangers facing the automobile industry and unsuspecting consumers who are willing to shell out big money for connected vehicles. The underlying issue, according to tech wizards Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, is tied to the “Internet of Things.” Increasing numbers of automakers are churning out sedans, trucks and SUVs akin to giant smartphones. An onboard computer controls navigation, entertainment, and lets drivers make phone calls. Some even feature a WiFi signal and hotspot.

Though it hasn’t yet happened, hackers could theoretically tap into this Internet-connected computer to gain control of vital functions like steering, power and brakes. Since 2013, Chrysler has installed Uconnect (an Internet-driven computer) on hundreds of thousands of cars. Miller and Valasek’s ground-breaking research has been shared with automakers like Chrysler to help the company identify software vulnerabilities and develop solutions.

Digital security is a concern for automakers

Keeping a vehicle’s essential control circuits separate from Internet-controlled devices may help improve security and minimize remote car hacking threats.

Ultimately, car makers should be held accountable for vulnerabilities in their vehicles’ software and security. “If consumers don’t realize this is an issue, they should, and they should start complaining to carmakers,” Miller told WIRED, adding “This might be the kind of software bug most likely to kill someone.”

Legal guidance from Salamati Law

Today’s vehicles are being made to be smarter and more connected. Engineers are even collaborating on Internet-based technology that would allow passenger cars to “talk to” each other. Remote car hacking may be hypothetical now, but it remains a very real concern for the future.

If you or a loved one was injured because of a defective or recalled vehicle, The Salamati Law Firm offers seasoned legal advice. Contact our Los Angeles car accident attorneys for a free case evaluation.

More answers to “Can cars be hacked?”: 

  2. Scientific American, Why Car Hacking Is Nearly Impossible
  3. Vox, Hackers can now crash cars from hundreds of miles away
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