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Jeep issues recall after hackers take control of vehicles

Posted in Products Liability on Thursday, August 6, 2015.

Some people may assume that dangerous automobile design defects are a relic of the past. However, a defective auto part can still pose a threat to today’s drivers. Pennsylvania Jeep owners may be interested in learning that Jeep Motor Company has issued a recall notice that affects nearly 1.5 million of its vehicles. The recall will allow the company to install a fix that patches a vulnerability in the cars’ control software that hackers can exploit to remotely hack into the vehicle.

Typically in today’s modern cars, the entertainment system, which is commonly referred to as a head unit, is connected to myriad other electronic control units that are found interspersed throughout the vehicle. Given that today’s automobiles can contain up to two hundred ECUs, the vulnerability to wireless exploit is nearly limitless as well as dangerous. Hackers could hack into a vehicle, take control and this could potentially result in serious injuries to the driver and other occupants in the vehicle.

In fact, a team of security experts in conjunction with the folks from Wired magazine demonstrated the ease with which it was possible for a hacker to wirelessly hack the entertainment and control system of a Jeep. Once inside, the hacker had complete control over the system remotely. In essence, a hacker could completely take control of a vehicle. Injuries due to such hacks are a new and emerging safety threat to drivers on the road which car manufacturers must pay attention to.

What should give pause to everyone was the experts’ claim that the vulnerability was not only inherent in the recalled Jeep vehicles but also in literally hundreds of thousands of cars in garages across the United States. So prevalent is the threat that it prompted two U.S. senators to introduce a bill in the Senate that, if passed into law, would force auto manufacturers to develop and implement security standards that protect automobile owners from being vulnerable to vehicle cyber-attacks.

Dubbed the Security and Privacy in Your Car Act of 2015, the proposal would require automotive manufacturers to equip their vehicles with the appropriate software that would continually scan for possible malicious hacking attempts and if detected, prevent and report the attack.

Source: The National Law Review, “Jeep hack drives cyber, crisis, liability and supply chain coverage issues,” July 28, 2015