The Story of when a Connected Car Gets Hacked

New technology can be extremely challenging at first, as we have seen with in-car devices. Companies are struggling to find the best solutions that can be integrated into a connected car.

Whether it’s a simple Bluetooth connection between the car and the driver’s smartphone or more complex functionalities like being able to access the car from a long distance, the trend of making our smartphones become more and more connected to our cars is here to stay.

This technology will be for connected car and self-driving cars as well

In theory at least, the future will look something like this: Everyone will own a self-driving vehicle. Cars will be able to communicate with each other and send information that is going to help them drive themselves without facing any risks on the roads.

There have been a lot of discussions regarding the benefits that connected vehicles will have in terms of passenger and pedestrian safety. We can’t deny the fact that it all sounds extremely appealing: We all wish to minimize, if not eliminate, car accidents or traffic congestion. So the adoption of connected vehicles would be the natural thing to do.

What do we do when the actual in-car technology is the enemy?

Hackers proved that all the millions of cars that are on the road today are actually vulnerable. Even though, right now, cars are communicating only with smartphones, that doesn’t mean they cannot be hacked.

They can. A hacker team proved how they were able to outsmart the connection between a smartphone and a connected car.

Imagine this:

You’re driving with 70 mph with both hands on the wheel,  when all of a sudden cold air starts blasting from your car’s dashboard even though you didn’t touch anything. The radio changed to a different station at a higher volume and, on top of that, the windshield wipers turn on and the only thing you can do, other than ask yourself what is going on, is, well, nothing.

I forgot to add that, to top it all of, on the car’s display there is also going to appear an image of the two hackers who managed to pull this prank on you.

How would you react in this situation? 

The test

Andy Greenberg was the driver of the Jeep Cherokee, the car that went through all of those things I described above. He willingly decided to take part in this experiment, which aimed to test the research that Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek have found.

The hackers were able to develop a software through which they would target Jeep Cherokees and access the cars’ commands only with a laptop and a wireless connection. And they didn’t even have to be near the car to do it.

All this hacking wasn’t just for fun

The two hackers will actually publish a part of their research on the Internet. What they were able to discover, will actually be part of the inspiration for the legislation regarding automotive security. The bill is going to set new standards for connected cars.

It’s a good thing that the two hackers were able to figure out how a car can be hacked because, if it were someone else behind a laptop controlling the car, that person could’ve done more dangerous things, like taking control over the wheel, accelerating or suddenly disabling the breaks. This is something that could potentially cause an accident.

We should be grateful for the effort that Miller and Valasek made in order to identify flaws in the Jeep’s Uconnect because it raised awareness regarding this issue and now the automotive industry is going to be more careful when releasing connected car systems.

Want to learn more about connected cars?

Then be sure to check out the rest of my website. You will definitely find all the information you will need, be it about connected cars or self-driving vehicles. Plus, you will also have a better understanding of how the industry is developing.

Philipp Kandal