After heightened pressure from the U.S. government, Fiat Chrysler has recalled 1.4 million vehicles over eye popping system gaps which leave the vehicles exposed to hacking attacks. The news comes after just this week two hackers remotely hacked into a Jeep Cherokee, fully taking control of the vehicle’s functions, completely locking out the driver. Worry over increased possibilities of random car hacking have led to a renewed vigor in ensuring drivers are safe from criminal hacking that will compromise their safety.
The Fiat Chrysler call back is the first of its kind. The government had increased pressure on the car manufacturer after system gaps were located in the vehicle, rendering it susceptible to cyber crime. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTSHA) said it would open an investigation to ensure that all vehicles that could be affected by the system gap are covered. In a statement, the NTSHA said the recall “meets the critical responsibility of manufacturers to assure the American public that vehicles are secure from such threats, and that when vulnerabilities are discovered, there will be a swift and strong response.”
Only recently did a Wired report chronicle how to hackers took control of a Cherokee Jeep while stationed in a room miles away from the vehicle. The hackers were able to effortlessly penetrate the vehicle’s firewall and take full charge of the vehicle’s operations including radio, seat belts, wipers and air conditioning. The hackers then killed the acceleration pedal, slowed the vehicle and cut out the brakes before steering the car into a ditch as the driver sat terrified and helpless. The hackers revealed that they could even remotely trace vehicles using their IP addresses from anywhere in the U.S. and take full control of them. The potential breach in security is of galactic proportions. A recall was inevitable.
Fiat Chrysler recall will include the adding of software updates to safeguard radios that are vulnerable to remote cyber hacks. The auto manufacturer said in a statement, “The recall aligns with an ongoing software distribution that insulates connected vehicles from remote manipulation which, if unauthorized, constitutes criminal action.”
Fiat revealed that it first got wind of the hacking news through a researcher who revealed that the vehicle communications port, the window to all its’ systems operations, was inadvertently left wide open; a hacker’s dream. The updates would serve to completely close these gaps, making the car’s systems air tight and cyber proof.
It remains to be seen whether other car manufacturers will follow in the footsteps of Fiat Chrysler through the recall.
Cyber crime has dominated security debates this last decade. From remote hacks traced to Chinese assailants, to cyber breaches in Sony Pictures traced back to North Korea, to unauthorized confidential data leaks from U.S. agencies and celebrity phone hacks, no one is safe. Lines have got to be drawn and people, including companies, have got to be answerable. The security of America’s 250 million road users has to be treated as a top priority and where gaps are realized, they should be arrested promptly.