Have you ever stopped to think about the computer system in your car? I’ll give you a second…..OK now what if I told you that it’s possible for a hacker to take control of that system and take over the controls of your car. Pretty freaky and sci-fi huh? Well not really!

Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek have been doing hacking research for the past year. Recently they did an experiment with Andy Greenberg of Wired driving a jeep down the highway in St. Louis and they killed the jeep remotely! He described the event, first he said the air conditioning came on and he couldn’t turn it off, then the radio station switched to the local station and started blasting at full volume and he couldn’t control it at all, then a picture of the hackers showed up on the digital display.

The result of their work was a hacking technique—what the security industry calls a zero-day exploit—that can target Jeep Cherokees and give the attacker wireless control, via the Internet, to any of thousands of vehicles. Their code is an automaker’s nightmare: software that lets hackers send commands through the Jeep’s entertainment system to its dashboard functions, steering, brakes, and transmission, all from a laptop that may be across the country.

The hackers had told him that no matter what happened to remain calm as he pulled onto the highway that’s when they killed the transmission!

“Immediately my accelerator stopped working. As I frantically pressed the pedal and watched the RPMs climb, the Jeep lost half its speed, then slowed to a crawl. This occurred just as I reached a long overpass, with no shoulder to offer an escape. The experiment had ceased to be fun.

At that point, the interstate began to slope upward, so the Jeep lost more momentum and barely crept forward. Cars lined up behind my bumper before passing me, honking. I could see an 18-wheeler approaching in my rear-view mirror. I hoped its driver saw me, too, and could tell I was paralyzed on the highway”.

Miller and Valasek’s full arsenal includes functions that at lower speeds fully kill the engine, abruptly engage the brakes, or disable them altogether. The most disturbing maneuver came when they cut the Jeep’s brakes, leaving me frantically pumping the pedal as the 2-ton SUV slid uncontrollably into a ditch. The researchers say they’re working on perfecting their steering control—for now they can only hijack the wheel when the Jeep is in reverse. Their hack enables surveillance too: They can track a targeted Jeep’s GPS coordinates, measure its speed, and even drop pins on a map to trace its route.

This has sparked some new proposed legislation. Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal plan to introduce an automotive security bill to set new digital security standards for cars and trucks. This begs the question how smart to we want our cars to be and how much added technology to our cars really leaves us vulnerable.

Stay tuned to this blog spot for more info on this and as always, DRIVE SAFE!

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