Automakers

Congress Is Trying To Pump the Brakes On Hackers Who Can Control Your Car Wirelessly

Congress Is Trying To Pump the Brakes On Hackers Who Can Control Your Car Wirelessly
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Hackers have long reigned as the ultimate predators of our online world. But as more of the objects, devices and gadgets we use every day are connected to the Internet, hackers are becoming ever more powerful and are able to extend their reach into every corner of our life, including your car.

Imagine driving down the road and your car no longer responds to your commands, not because the function is broken but because the car is responding to someone else’s command overriding anything you do.  

Related: Smart Devices Are the Cause of Distracted Driving -- But They're Also the Solution

As one WIRED journalist found out, that can be pretty scary.  Senior writer Andy Greenberg voluntarily put himself in a Jeep Cherokee and invited hackers -- located in a basement 10 miles away -- to mess with him and the car he was driving. Here’s a list of what those hackers were able to do to Greenberg’s car:

  • Blew cold air at maximum level

  • Switched the radio station

  • Turned up the music volume

  • Switched the windshield wipers on

  • Ejected wiper fluid onto the windshield

  • Put their picture on the digital dashboard display

  • Caused the accelerator to stop working

  • Killed the engine (only if the car was going slowly)

  • Steered the car (only if the car is going slowly)

Related: Companies Need to Take Responsibility for Protecting Sensitive User Data

This is all possible because automakers are building connected cars before they have a way to protect them. The consumer vulnerability is getting attention of U.S. lawmakers.  

Just yesterday, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), two members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, introduced a bill that would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create federal standards to protect driver’s privacy. Further, the legislation would require the government to create a ratings system to inform consumers how secure their car automobile is from hackers.

“Rushing to roll out the next big thing, automakers have left cars unlocked to hackers and data-trackers,” said Senator Blumenthal, in a statement announcing the legislative push. “Security and safety need not be sacrificed for the convenience and promise of wireless progress.”

This isn’t the first time U.S. legislators have taken notice of the wireless carjacking. Back in February, Markey commissioned a report that discovered that almost 100 percent of vehicles on the market with wireless entry points (WEPs) are vulnerable to hackers.

Related: The Next Place Hackers Will Find You? Your Car.

Edition: December 2016

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