Hackers not only managed to cut out the Cherokee’s transmission but also disable the brakes, causing it to crash


Hackers Managed to disable the brakes of a Jeep Cherokee remotely while the vehicle was moving in the most alarming breach of car security to date. The hack was performed as part of an experiment in the US, during which the hackers also took control of the
car’s transmission, entertainment system, air conditioning and windscreen wipers.

The hack was conducted by Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, who have a long history of breaking into car computers. With a Wired reporter behind the wheel, the pair were able to knock out the brakes, rendering the brake pedal useless and sending the car into a ditch.

During the experiment, the hackers also cut the car’s transmission as it was travelling at 70mph, causing the Jeep to lose speed suddenly. They took control of the air
conditioning, blasting the driver with cool air, switched the car stereo up to maximum volume and engaged the windscreen wiper and washers – all of which could cause a driver to lose concentration. The pair could even take over the steering, although only when the car was travelling in reverse. Wired reports that Miller and Valasek are confident they can find a way to move the wheel while the Jeep is travelling forwards at speed, however.

The pair performed all these actions from 10 miles away using the car’s Uconnect feature, which allows drivers to hook their smartphone to the in-car entertainment and navigation system. They plan to disclose full details of the vulnerability at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas.

In the meantime, researchers have shared their findings with Jeep manufacturer Chrysler, which released a patch to fix the vulnerability. Sadly, it must be installed manually from a USB stick or at a dealership, so thousands of vehicles are likely to remain unpatched when details of the flaw are published. In a statement sent to Wired, Chrysler urged the researchers not to go public with their information.

“Under no circumstances does [Fiat Chrysler Automobiles] condone or believe it’s appropriate to disclose ‘how-to information’ that would potentiallyencourage, or help enable hackers to gain unauthorised and unlawful access to vehicle systems,” the company said. “We appreciate the contributions of cyber-security advocates to augment the industry’s understanding of potential vulnerabilities.

However, we caution advocates that in the pursuit of improved public safety they not, in fact, compromise public safety.” Miller and Valasek still plan to publish, however, arguing that it will force car manufacturers to improve their security. “If consumers don’t realise this is an issue, they should, and they should startcomplaining to carmakers,” Miller told Wired. “This might be the kind of software bug most likely to kill someone.”

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