​Why Internet in Your Car is Deadlier than You May Expect

A case study from Chrysler's 'UConnect'


The latest cars harness the awesome power of the internet to provide in-built GPS, entertainment and internet browsing. While many may consider this as long overdue, tech experts are sending out serious warnings about what could extend to endanger, rather than improve, lives.

Chrysler ‘UConnect’: The beginnings of car hacking

Chrysler have long since been considered a car brand that delivers something distinctly different. The Chrysler ‘UConnect’ system promised the driver an immersive satellite navigation and internet browsing experience, to provide people with the on-the-go internet access that had seemed so lacking in models within this day and age. Unfortunately, these head units were also capable of providing access to hackers through which queries and commands could be ran, ultimately enabling the sending of canned messages, which provided access to the operation of everything from the windscreen wipers right through to the brakes.

A progression from physical connections to hacks from potentially thousands of miles away

While experts notoriously gained access to the UConnect system in a series of experiments where physical connections from attacking computers were made through wires, today the scene is a whole lot more advanced.

Today, cellular connections can be made to entertainment systems that go beyond the Chrysler’s UConnect, notably adding the Jeep Cherokee to a list of growing “at risk” vehicles. These remotely accessible systems are being coupled with SQL injection attacks, which have long wreaked havoc upon the online world, having stood the test of time as still being capable of manipulating systems quickly, easily and, in the case of the internet connected car, potentially fatally.

So, what can be done at the tap of a few lines of code?

From cutting the engine off completely, to the tampering with transmission and even the slamming on of the brakes, your internet connected car is seriously vulnerable to being hacked and, quite literally, driven by an attacker who could be based on the other side of the world.

Unfortunately it seems that the industry is both doing little to draw this to consumer’s attention (with Chrysler simply announcing the bolstering software update to the UConnect as something that would ‘improve digital security’), as well as being subject to attacks that are advancing at an alarming rate, all while the employment of internet connections within cars continues to become more commonplace.

The hacking of cars goes beyond the models that feature only the most advanced of internet enabled features, with almost every modern car being vulnerable to remotely hacked key codes that provide access to cars for thefts that are swifter than ever.

When this is coupled with the serious and always evolving threat of cars that are likely controlled remotely it seems that the car industry's underwhelming responses, and distinct lack of any tangible action plan, emphasis the importance of consumers being fully informed when considering their next forecourt purchase.


Read next:

Panel Session: The Cultural Shift