Is your machine protected from hackers? It was this question that prompted the researchers to remotely attack a 2014 Jeep Cherokee, driving down a freeway at 70 mph, killing its engine and leaving the driver in real danger. The attack was intended to demonstrate to the driver (Wired author Andy Greenberg) how vulnerable modern cars are.
How to hack a car
The attack was carried out using a car entertainment system that connects to the Internet via a cellular network. The attack does not require physical access to the vehicle — or even physical proximity. An attacker can cripple a machine from anywhere in the world at any time.
Over a million vehicles have been recalled as a result of this article and will receive updates to improve protection against this type of attack.
The freeway show was risky and the internet couldn’t handle the unnecessary risk anymore, but that’s not what we’re looking at here. It is true that the researchers were wrong to unnecessarily endanger human life. However, we must not let this distract us from the bigger issue here. Namely, it is urgent to secure our machines from such attacks.
In the case of vehicles such as the Jeep Cherokee, this problem could have been avoided simply by not linking the vehicle’s internal computer (which performs basic functions such as braking) to an internet-enabled entertainment center. Making a computer secure when it is not physically connected to the outside world is quite simple.
Which can be a really big problem.
Who’s afraid of a two-ton killer robot?
The concern here is pretty obvious. Google’s robotic car may look cute, but it’s still an industrial robot at the end of the day — a big, heavy, dangerous machine that can travel at high speeds. In the hands of Google’s carefully crafted software, these cars are safer than human drivers. This is a testament to the vast amount of development, research and testing that Google has done on this issue. However, this does not mean that the car will remain safe under the control of a hacker.