First Ever Hack of a Moving Vehicle

It seems that there is some new invention, new gadget, or new app designed virtually every day to make our lives easier. Take cars, for example: with every new year comes at least one new feature or an upgrade of an old one. These features used to be centered on safety.

First, it was seat belts, then cruise control to rest our weary legs during long journeys. Then came crumple zones, then front airbags, then side airbags.

But, now the emphasis seems to be on convenience and connectivity. Sure, there are still amazing new safety features like rear-facing cameras and rear-mounted radar. Lexus now offers an automatic high beam control that senses oncoming traffic, and Mercedes has a night vision setup that is second to none.

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But car buyers want more. So now, there is GPS tracking, which can locate a specific vehicle and update its position every 10 seconds. Vehicles are now coming equipped with more cameras and ever larger dashboard displays. The newest feature, which seems to be all the rage, is car Internet connectivity, effectively turning the vehicle into a Wi-Fi hotspot.

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These new developments and gadgets are great and all, but have the manufacturers thought of the potential pitfalls? Probably not.

Well, maybe they should. We’ve all heard of the many hacks that have occurred recently. ISIS hacking the Defense Department; hacks of Citibank, Home Depot, and Anthem Insurance; the huge Sony hack that made headlines; and, of course, the Ashley Madison cheating website.

So, if all these sites can be hacked, why not our cars? It’s basically a computer on wheels, now complete with Internet.

And it just so happens that, “Hackers took control of a car and crashed into a ditch by remotely breaking into its systems from 10 miles away whilst sitting on their sofa.”

Yep, that’s right. The hackers said, “they used just a laptop and a mobile phone to access the Jeep’s onboard systems via its wireless Internet connection. In the first such breach of its kind, security experts cut out the engine and applied the brakes on the Jeep Cherokee – sending it into a spin.”

Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller, formerly of the NSA, along with writer Andy Greenberg, hacked into the Jeep in St. Louis Missouri.

All the sudden, Greenberg says, the air-conditioner switched on, as did the radio, at full volume. Then the windshield wipers came on, as well as a steady stream of wiper fluid. Greenberg described that it then got a lot worse.

“The most disturbing maneuver,” writes Greenberg, “came when they cut the Jeep’s breaks, leaving me frantically pumping the pedal as the 2 ton SUV slid uncontrollably into a ditch.”

And if that’s not unnerving enough, hackers may be able to break in without disturbing any of the systems. In other words, you may never know you were hacked. “They can track a targeted Jeep’s GPS coordinates, measure speed, and even drop pins on a map to trace its route.  According to Miller and Valasek, the onboard Internet connection is a super nice vulnerability for hackers.”

And as if to add insult to injury, the two hackers, “appeared on the car’s digital display to signify that they had gained access.”

I wonder how long it will be before someone from, say, ISIS figures out that this is a great way to terrorize people–simply taking control of the speeding vehicle on a crowded Los Angeles freeway and creating an epic pile up?

Perhaps we should begin to question the wisdom of all these new developments and gadgets and use the same rationale of ethical scientists: Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

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