Wireless Hacking Affecting Millions of Vehicles


We’re all familiar with the dangers of hackers taking control of our computers and stealing personal information. Unfortunately, the dangers are no longer limited to computers. With ever-changing technology comes new concerns, especially as auto manufacturers create cars and trucks with the latest in sophisticated technology. While you and your kids may enjoy having Wi-Fi in the car – especially on long road trips – hackers are able to control your car through this Wi-Fi, putting your safety at risk.

Two hackers, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, showed a crash test dummy the type of damage they could to a Jeep from a remote location. By locating a car’s IP address and using a burner phone’s cell connection, they could infiltrate the Jeep’s entrainment system and control everything from the radio and the windshield wipers to the horn and the brake. The hackers even disabled the transmission at one point, leaving the test driver in a panic as a semi truck nearly rear-ended him.

Chrysler has a feature called Uconnect that is connected to Sprint, so it can only communicate with other Sprint devices. The hackers used a Sprint phone as a hot spot and a Macbook to gather information from nearby vehicles, such as GPS coordinates, make, model, IP address and even the VIN. They found several nearby vehicles that were vulnerable to their attacks. They later found out that they could hack a vehicle from anywhere in the United States, not just in their local area.

This seems like a scene from a sci-fi movie, but this is now reality. Chrysler’s attempt to turn its vehicles into smartphones is giving hackers an opportunity to cause chaos on the roadways. The Uconnect feature has one flaw that allows hackers to control the vehicle from anywhere – a scary thought for drivers everywhere.

The two hackers mentioned above have been able to use their expertise for good by sharing their experiences with Chrysler in order to prevent future cybersecurity threats. And the threat is serious. It’s not like a software bug that crashes your computer or corrupts a file; it’s a deadly threat that could kill someone. That’s not the kind of legal issue auto manufacturers want to deal with.

Chrysler has also responded to the hacking incident by recalling 1.4 million vehicles. The company said the issue is with an electronic opening in the radio and the recall would keep it closed through a software update. The recall affects a variety of models manufactured from 2013-2015, including Vipers, Ram pickups, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Cherokee SUVs, Chargers, Challengers, 200s and 300s.

Auto manufacturers are used to performing mechanical safety checks, but online security is a new concern. Even lawmakers are stepping in to ensure that drivers feel safe and secure while driving their vehicles. Congress is hoping to get assistance with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in order to set new safety and privacy standards for consumers.

With 471,000 hackable vehicles in the country, the hackers then set off on another project: to find out which vehicles were easiest to hack. They rated 24 cars, trucks and SUVs based on several criteria, such as the types of radios and entertainment systems used. The result? Jeep Cherokee was rated most hackable, followed by the Cadillac Escalade and Infiniti Q50.

The ability to hack into a vehicle can make motorists vulnerable. A loss of control is not what a driver wants in a traffic jam or on a highway going 70 mph. While it’s convenient to have Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, entertainment centers and other technology in our cars, auto manufacturers need to understand the risks involved.

Over the years, the auto recall lawyers of Nadrich & Cohen, LLP have investigated all types of auto defects, such as: Toyota Unintended Acceleration Recall, the GM Ignition Switch Recall and the Takata Air Bag Recalls. If you or a loved one has been injured due to a vehicle defect, contact us today for a free, confidential consultation.

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