Gadgets for humans

PSA: The FBI wants you to worry about your car being hacked


The FBI has teamed up with the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make a public service announcement warning about the growing cybersecurity threats posed by connected vehicles.

It’s not a shock development but what’s more surprising is how long it’s taken the FBI to voice concerns. In 2015, Fiat Chrysler was forced to recall over 1 million cars in the US after it was revealed that researchers had managed to remotely gain control of one of the company’s Jeeps. The researchers were able to take control of the vehicle and kill it on the highway all while there was a person in the driver’s seat.

This is nothing short of a nightmare scenario, compromised the safety of you and everyone around you, but all raises significant privacy issues.

The FBI doesn’t highlight any other incidents that the public need to be aware of just yet but it does give some advice on how to be safe from vehicular cyberthreats.

Some of the advice includes making sure your car’s software is fully up to date and be aware of any recalls being made by the manufacturer. You should also be careful of any unauthorized changes made to your vehicle and try not to plug any devices that may not be secure into the car’s network.

This is all pretty standard advice but the FBI feels that people need to start taking the threats more seriously.

Remote updates are a genuine cause for concern with connected cars. In the past few months, both BMW and General Motors (GM) have had to release security updates where it appeared that their networks were vulnerable to attacks. In the case of GM, it was apparent that hackers could have started the engines of some vehicles remotely.

The FBI addresses this concern in its announcement, stating that online updates might be hijacked by hackers to trick users into opening malicious attachments.

Elon Musk’s Tesla was criticised for its use of over-the-air updates last year when it gave users a new autopilot feature without giving any additional information that might ensure they understood the precautions needed when using it. Of course, within hours of the update rolling out, videos appeared online of Tesla owners doing stupid things with the new feature.

So as well as security from online threats, there are still plenty of safety concerns with connected and self-driving cars that need to be addressed before they become commonplace on the road.

Motor vehicles increasingly vulnerable to remote exploits [Federal Bureau of Investigation]

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Published March 18, 2016 — 13:40 UTC