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iHacked a Jeep

By Anna Kantilaftas, 22 Jul 2015 Car Opinions

iHacked a Jeep

Panic stations at WhichCar HQ… someone hacked a Jeep. We have breaking news from the Ed’s desk.

Earlier this month, Joy Rider wrote an article for WhichCar on vehicle technology and its ever-growing presence. She shared her concerns that certain technologies are not only threatening driver skills, but also leaving us susceptible to messy, and potentially deadly faults.

We’re not sure if Joy is a psychic or a hacker, because this week news broke on two white hat hackers in the US, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, who were able to remotely control a 2014 Jeep Cherokee. We know how this sounds but we had to see it to believe it as well.

Apparently Miller and Valasek sat kilometres away from the Jeep and its driver, WIRED writer Andy Greenberg, while they took control of the vehicle, messing with the infotainment system, locks, windscreen wipers, brakes and transmission, just to name a few. That must be scarier than that time Joy couldn’t find the window controls on a 35 degree day!

It’s also important to mention the FCA is not the only company susceptible to this ‘genius invasion’. This wasn’t the first time the duo had made their point, previously performing a similar stunt on a Ford Escape and Toyota Prius via a connection to the onboard diagnostic ports. That was just two years ago, and now, they can do it wirelessly.

At this stage, the hackers can only access a vehicle while it’s in reverse but with the surveillance technology allowing them to monitor speed and GPS coordinators, they aren’t all that limited in what they can do.

So how is this happening and why now, you ask? Well, just ask Joy. It’s all about the robots taking over the world. Not really; new car technologies using internet-based computer features are creating an element of vulnerability in vehicles. There’s a whole bunch of technical stuff going on behind the scenes that we will leave to the experts because it causes our brains… to… fade…

Now the news has broken, we have no doubt a bunch of computer-literate IT geeks are probably steadily behind a computer screen frantically trying to come up with a way to match or better the white hat hacking duo. But the good news is Miller and Valasek have shared the information with FCA to patch up the glitch, and according to a statement from the company, the issue is localised to the USA: “No vehicles in Australia nor any international market outside of the USA were affected by this issue, as it is an American-only system not present in Australian vehicles. Vehicles sold in Australia and other international markets are not equipped with an external cellular connection.” Phew - thanks for being our crash dummies ‘Merica. We’re looking forward to the updated software of this technology, minus the hackable feature. See, clouds, silver linings and all that.

We love new car technologies. In fact, it’s what we live for here at WhichCar, and we’re all for features that make our day-to-day lives easier – seriously, if anyone wants fly us to work via helicopter every morning, we’re fine with that. But when our techno features become a reality, it’s hard not to turn a blind eye to the inevitable robot invasion… We bet Joy’s grandpa’s HQ never had this problem.

Don’t believe us? Read here.