Car Hacking – The Issue We’re Wrongly Ignoring

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2017 All-New GMC Acadia Denali Infotainment

Everyone knows computers can be hacked and cars can be stolen.

According to a recent study, most of us have no idea that car hacking is a serious problem, too.

The news comes from Kelley Blue Book and is based on a study conducted in the summer of 2015. Fully three quarters of respondents said they couldn’t recall any news of car hacking in the last year.

This despite a Jeep Cherokee in Pittsburgh being hacked all the way from St. Louis in an effort to demonstrate the vulnerability of cars to hackers. They took control of the car messing with the brakes, radio, windshield wipers, and transmission. This hack was done with the owner’s knowledge as a demonstration, but imagine if it was done maliciously.

There’s also the problem of information security. You connect your phone and transmit all kinds of personal data to your car. Where you live, work, and visit are all there thanks to your navigation system. Your contacts with their emails, phone numbers, and social media accounts are all there, too.

The amount of information up for grabs, combined with the possibility that someone could take control of your car, is cause for worry.

The same study showed that the younger the respondent, the more likely they were to want cars to become more connected, which is no surprise. It also showed that while we may be okay with connected cars, autonomous cars are another story. Every age group was reluctant to accept autonomous technology and give up control of the metal beasts in their driveways.

The reality is that we’re already giving up control, and we aren’t paying attention. Just last week, Nissan was forced to suspend its NissanConnect EV smartphone app when hackers showed how they remotely access a Nissan Leaf and could take control of the vehicle. Hacking is a serious problem.

The public is worried about autonomous cars and whether they’ll be safe. What we should be worrying about are the cars parked in our driveways right now. We’ve been lucky that hackers are so far revealing security issues and telling manufacturers so they can be corrected. Not every hacker is so altruistic.

Simple hacks that use the signals transmitted by your key fob let thieves access your car and steal it while you’re away. The more connected our cars become, the more we all need to pay attention to what automakers are doing to keep our cars secure.

The study showed that the majority of people put the responsibility for securing cars from hacking at the feet of manufacturers. It makes sense. We expect them to make cars that are difficult to physically break into, so the same should be true about virtually breaking into a car.

It might be a reasonable expectation, but with hacking a continued problem, we should all be paying more attention to how the issue will be addressed.