This just in from the FBI: Our cars are have computers, so they can be hacked.
SiliconBeat readers might already have known this because we wrote about the Jeep Cherokee hacking last year and the recalls and concern that followed; Intel’s formation of a panel to study defenses against car hacking; and a Prius getting hacked back in 2013. And in case you’ve never heard of the 2010 case of blaring horns and disabled starters because of Texas Auto Center getting hacked, this Washington Post story might give you a serious scare.
In a public service announcement published Thursday with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the FBI did not report any new hacks nor explain the timing of the warnings. But the two agencies do offer some tips and best practices, including urging people to notify them in case of a hacking emergency.
The PSA says, basically, that it’s not all fun and games when it comes to the Internet of Things.
It lists all the parts of our cars that could possibly get hacked because they’re more likely than not to be connected to a computer or have wireless capability. They include steering, braking, lights, windshield wipers. Also, the nifty keyless entry, ignition control and the cool features such as navigation and the infotainment systems in cars. The government also warns against possible dangers that could be introduced by connecting a third-party device to a car’s diagnostic port.
The PSA also mentions the Jeep Cherokee hack, which allowed researchers to take control of a car by exploiting its radio and WiFi capabilities to, among other things, stop the car while it was cruising on the highway, as described in Wired in July. (Reminder: Chrysler has since issued fixes.)
The government urges car owners to be vigilant and pay attention to whether their cars have been recalled, and check the sources of any downloads or updates they are asked to install.
And in addition to letting car makers and dealers know of any hack attacks, the government also wants to be informed. In fact, it has established an Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC), which it wants to become a hub for tracking cyber threats.
The researchers who hacked the Jeep Cherokee seemed to welcome the government’s effort, however delayed it seems to be.
“Charlie [Miller] and I get emails all the time from people who say ‘my car’s been hacked!'” Chris Valasek, one of the researchers, told Wired. “The FBI is more than welcome to take that over.”
Photo of a Jeep Cherokee from Associated Press archives