Can Your Car Really Be Hijacked?

On your daily commute, imagine your car suddenly not responding to your driving cues. Turn the steering wheel, and nothing happens. Push the brake, and you don’t stop. Few things could be more frightening than hurdling through space at any speed and not knowing what will happen. This scenario may sound like a scene from a science fiction or adventure movie, but it is certainly possible. Wired reporter, Andy Greenwood, recently proved that today’s smart vehicles can be remotely accessed and controlled by hackers.

While the likelihood of someone with the means and know-how to hack your personal vehicle may be low, the mere possibility of it happening shakes our very foundation of how we see the world. After all, there’s enough to worry about when driving: from animals suddenly crossing in front of you to weather conditions with the potential to send you careening off the road. Now, there’s this. Pretty much any device with a CPU is at risk to being hacked and controlled from afar, whether it is a pacemaker or a washing machine.

This is what Andy Greenburg set out to illustrate when he arranged for his Jeep Cherokee to be hijacked by two car-hacking researchers. The researchers were able to gain control of Greenburg’s vehicle, transforming his role from driver to passenger in little time. They turned the steering wheel, jerked on the reporter’s seat belt, and even disabled the brakes using the Internet. Much of the not-so-amusing shenanigans were controlled through Fiat Chrysler’s “Uconnect” feature, which electronically manages a vehicle’s navigation, entertainment features, and more. Basically, a vulnerability in this system let the hackers in.

While it is possible to remotely hijack vehicles without this Uconnect feature, this vulnerability is now well-known and puts certain Chryslers at an even greater risk to this new technological danger. The Uconnect package is an option offered for 2013 through 2015 Chrysler and Dodge cars and trucks, including the Jeep Cherokee, Dodge Ram, and Dodge Charger. The good news is that, if you have a vehicle featuring the Uconnect package, there is a fix that can be installed. Although it is possible to do it yourself by visiting the Chrysler website and downloading it onto a USB drive, this is a job perhaps best left to the dealership.