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The FBI is warning drivers: Your car may be vulnerable to hacking

Charlie Miller (L) and Chris Valasek give a briefing during the Black Hat USA 2015 cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas
Reuters/Steve Marcus
It’s hot-wiring for the 21st century.
By Joon Ian Wong
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Watch out for hackers trying to break into your car, says a new public service announcement issued yesterday (Mar. 17) by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Transportation, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The US agencies point out that as digital systems on cars proliferate, so too do the opportunities to gain unauthorized access to those systems. “With this increased connectivity, it is important that consumers and manufacturers maintain awareness of potential cyber security threats,” the announcement said.

The warning referred to the July 2015 recall of 1.4 million vehicles by Chrysler, which happened after Wired magazine published a story detailing how two security researchers could remotely hijack a Jeep’s critical functions. Chrysler sent affected owners a USB drive containing a software update to patch the vulnerability.

As car-makers increasingly pursue designs that rely on software to operate critical functions, some experts have warned that serious dangers lie on the road ahead.

Those concerns came up this week at a US senate hearing on self-driving cars on Mar. 15. “There is no question that someone is going to die in this technology,” testified Missy Cummings, director of Duke University’s Humans and Autonomy Lab. “The question is when, and what can we do to minimize it.”

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