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Vehicle security: car hacking shows manufacturers must up their game

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The blockbuster franchise Transformers may have once seemed far-fetched and futuristic, but events last week proved that the so-called ‘Internet of Things’ is the here and now and can be used for bad as well as good.

Indeed, Fiat Chrysler’s voluntary recall of 1.4 million vehicles in response to hackers demonstrating how they could take control of one of the company’s cars using the Internet goes to prove that VMs will now be spending the summer months software patching and re-writing millions of lines of code.

By hacking into the vehicle’s 8.4-inch touchscreens, the ethical hacker’s actions affected several popular models made by Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep, Dodge, Chrysler and RAM brands.

Security researchers infiltrated a Jeep Cherokee’s electronics systems and hijacked many of the vehicle’s features, all while the duo sat in a basement miles from where reporter Andy Greenberg was driving the SUV.

Among other actions, they were able to control the Jeep’s air conditioning and radio, disable its transmission, track its GPS location and, in some circumstances, cripple its brakes and control its steering.

Other researchers have been able to hack into systems via the car’s on-board computer through the ‘infotainment’ systems and DAB radios, now standard in millions of all makes of cars.

This was to demonstrate it could be done, but what about the so-called cyber terrorists who could hi-jack vehicles to fulfill their own twisted aims

VMs need only look to the retail sector to see that technology designed to be of benefit to the sector, can be manipulated for bad purposes. Multi million pound Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) tagging systems to prevent store thefts through the activation of alarms, can be defeated by thieves simply using foil-line bags – the kryptonite to radio frequency technology.

Likewise, hackers are involved in account takeovers and logging into personal details as people shop using their smartphones and tablets.

This is not a Luddite message, but a call to technology developers to make sure that the technology is future-proof before it is installed.

Just because we can, does not mean we should, simply because of the potential brand damage, or worse.

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