Technology and automobiles go hand-in-hand with advancing technology computerizing everything from basic in-car infotainment systems, to engine and apparatus controls such as steering, transmission, and throttle operation. With that and the advent of wireless technology and capabilities, comes a pretty big caveat–a big red carpet for hackers to compromise such systems by giving them an easy method of access–a method only once available by connecting directly into a car’s On-Board Diagnostic port.
To see if it was really possible to hack a car wirelessly from any given location, using the incorporated technology within a car, Wired editor Andy Greenberg teamed up with talented hackers and security experts, Charlie Miller, and Chris Valasek, the Director of Vehicle Safety Research at IOActive, to see if it was possible.
The premise was simple. Greenberg was instructed by Miller and Valasek to embark on a little road trip on the local interstate outside of St. Louis and 10 miles away, the duo would attempt to hack the 2015 Jeep Cherokee Greenberg was piloting through its wireless connectivity for the on-board UConnect infotainment system. The UConnect system has wireless capabilities to allow for over-the-air updates, streaming, and road-side assistance connectivity. Miller’s and Valasek’s advice to Greenberg before experimenting: whatever happens, just don’t panic.
UConnect is a neat feature that not only provides drivers with constant updates from the mother ship at Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, it also provides a way for hackers to hack into the car. That’s exactly what Miller and Valasek accomplished.
While Greenberg drove on the interstate, both Miller and Valasek were able to hack into the Cherokee’s central brain and upload a bunch of malicious code, which revoked the control away from Greenberg by causing the windshield wipers and fluid to turn on endlessly, the radio to blast a local station while disabling the in-car controls, and they even uploaded an image of the two hacking away at the Jeep within the car’s central gauge-cluster display, all while being 10 miles away.
But here’s the scary part–they were even able to disable the car’s transmission and braking functions, merely causing Greenberg to crash.
Ultimately, it raises and highlights concern for security vulnerabilities with computer-based car controls and functions and is something automakers need to take seriously.
Head on over to Wired to read all about Greenberg’s experience along with a video feature, which you can see below.
– By: Chris Chin