FBI sounds alarm over car hackers

FBI sounds alarm over car hackers
© Greg Nash

The FBI and federal regulators are warning that motor vehicles are “increasingly vulnerable” to cyberattacks.

“While not all hacking incidents may result in a risk to safety — such as an attacker taking control of a vehicle — it is important that consumers take appropriate steps to minimize risk,” according to a joint bulletin from the FBI and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued late Thursday.


The warning comes on the heels of a massive recall last summer at Fiat Chrysler over digital security concerns. Several other major automakers have also issued upgrades to fix security flaws that could have allowed hackers to remotely hijack vehicle functions.

“The FBI and NHTSA are warning the general public and manufacturers — of vehicles, vehicle components and aftermarket devices — to maintain awareness of potential issues and cybersecurity threats related to connected vehicle technologies in modern vehicles,” the two agencies said.

The statement is the latest step in the government’s effort to raise awareness of the cybersecurity concerns that come with Internet-connected cars.

A growing body of research has exposed numerous ways hackers can remotely infiltrate a vehicle, which the FBI and NHTSA bulletin detailed.

A 2014 study showed that hackers could take control of an automobile through a number of common features, including Wi-Fi, keyless locks and Bluetooth.

Then last July, researchers showed they could commandeer a Jeep from 10 miles away, disengaging the transmission and forcing the car off the road.

The demonstration, profiled in a Wired article, caught fire and spurred Chrysler to recall roughly 1.4 million. The report also led to an NHTSA investigation and spurred two senators to introduce the Spy Car Act, which would direct the government to create standards that shield cars from vicious hacks.

One of the lawmakers behind the bill, Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeySenators seek to curb counterfeit toys and goods sold online Senate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Pledged money not going to Indigenous causes MORE (D-Mass.), has been raising red flags for years about the digital security shortcomings of vehicles.

In February of last year, Markey released an investigation of 16 automakers that concluded vehicles’ security measures are “inconsistent and haphazard.” Additionally, few auto manufacturers are able to detect and respond to hacks, the report found.