The New Cyberthreat? Can Your Car Be Hacked?
In the wake of hacking of computers at Target, Home Depot and now Sony, and with the knowledge that most modern motor vehicles are computers on wheels, many experts express concern that hackers will soon be able to create problems for drivers by breaking into the systems that run their cars. In response to the potential threat, General Motors has named Jeffrey Massimilla as the first cybersecurity officer in the company’s history.
GM announced in 2014 that it plans to make the first “driverless” cars available in 2016. Because these vehicles will depend entirely on computers for their operation, it is expected that GM fill focus much of its effort on them.
GM’s efforts respond in part to concerns raised when “vehicle security consultants” Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek were able to successfully hack into the steering and brakes of a Ford Escape and a Toyota Prius, with nothing more than a laptop connected to the car. In August, 2014, Miller and Valasek spoke at an industry conference, providing a list of 24 different cars, with an assessment of their “hackability.” They admit that they did not actually try to hack the computer systems of all those vehicles, but instead reviewed all technical manuals, wiring diagrams and computer networks to make assessments about vulnerability to hacking. According to their research, the 2014 Infiniti Q50, the Jeep Cherokee and the 2015 Cadillac Escalade are “most hackable.” Those that were easiest to break into tended to be those that offered the most convenience for users—cars equipped with Bluetooth, wireless tire pressure monitoring, built-in cellular connections and interface capabilities with a smartphone or personal assistant.
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