In 2016, cybersecurity experts uncovered a serious flaw in the mobile Wi-Fi system installed in some Fiat-Chrysler vehicles. Using a laptop, researchers were able to hack into many vehicular systems, including the stereo controls, windshield wipers, climate control, and even the transmission.
After the hackers proved they could remotely bring a Jeep Cherokee to a complete stop in the middle of the highway, Fiat-Chrysler recalled 1.4 million vehicles to implement tighter security—and Americans woke up to the reality that their cars' systems could be controlled from the outside.
U.S. Drivers Should Be Concerned About Vehicle Hacking
The increasing reliance on bigger and better technology makes automotive cybersecurity a real danger for American drivers. All new vehicle models contain some form of technology, whether it's entirely internal or used to interface with the driver. Lax security in these systems can pose particular risks to:
- Personal information. Any computer that collects and transmits information wirelessly has the potential to be hacked. Theft of personal information, account logins and passwords, medical and health information, and even the driver’s vital signs may be stolen simply by hacking into the car’s computer systems.
- Third-party companies. Many products are created to be compatible with certain vehicle types, such as heated seats, stereo systems, satellite navigation, and other aftermarket accessories. While these accessories may be cheaper or more convenient for consumers, they may not be safe from cyberattacks, and can send sensitive information through unprotected wireless networks.
- Autonomous vehicles. While the benefits of self-driving vehicles are numerous, the potential for hacking is one of the biggest drawbacks. A person who can remotely control the brakes or accelerator of a car—or hundreds of cars at once—just by tapping a few keys could put lives at immediate risk.
The FBI and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration have jointly warned consumers about vehicular cyberattacks. The agencies recommend keeping automotive software up to date; regularly checking for recalls involving security breaches; avoiding any unauthorized changes to a vehicle’s computer system; and never plugging any unsecure gadget into the car’s computer network.
Are you concerned about vehicle hacking? Leave us a comment below to tell us your story.