Jeep Cherokee hack fallout: Chrysler, Harman face suit; concern rising over connected cars

Chrysler and a supplier, Harman International, are in some legal trouble after a recent demonstration of a Jeep Cherokee hack, and as a larger conversation on Internet-connected vehicles gains traction.

Three Jeep Cherokee owners are accusing Chrysler and Harman of fraud, negligence, unjust enrichment, and break of warranty after two hackers remotely deactivated systems such as steering, braking and the engine of a Jeep Cherokee. The plaintiffs are calling to all those vulnerable to these exploits — those with a uConnect system in their cars — to join the litigation.

“The [affected] Vehicles are defectively designed in that essential engine and safety functionality is connected to the unsecure uConnect system through the CAN bus,” the complaint reads, according to Wired. “UConnect should be segregated from these other critical systems. There is no good reason for this current design. The risks associated with coupling these systems far outweigh any conceivable benefit.”

The car hacking demonstration, originally reported in Wired last month, has ignited great concerns about connected cars. Chrysler has recalled 1.4 million vehicles that are potentially vulnerable to the exploits, but Harman notes that only Fiat Chrysler cars are vulnerable.  A new study shows that nearly 80 percent of consumers think vehicle hacking will be a frequent problem in the near future, with 72 percent said they were aware of the Jeep Cherokee hacking incident and 41 percent said they will consider the incident when buying their next car.

Car hacking will be the focus of the Black Hat conference, and two researchers will show how the uConnect system flaw works. At the Defcon hacker conference, hackers will also reveal five unpatched security flaws in Tesla’s Model S.

Sens. Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal are looking to pass legislation that would ensure vehicle safety from hackers; the bill would have the National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration and the Federal Trade Commission create standards for car makers that would require defense from hackers.

“Many in the automotive industry really don’t understand what the implications are of moving to this new computer-based era,” Markey said.

Photo of a Jeep Cherokee from Associated Press archives 


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