Hackers Could Remotely Gain Control Of Cars In Mass Cyberattack, Researchers Find

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By Julie Watts, KOVR TV-13 CBS, Sacramento, CA

July 31, 2019


SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A new report warns some cars that are connected to the internet may be a threat to national security.

The group Consumer Watchdog says it worked with whistleblowers from inside the car industry to expose the risk. They say be 2022 most new cars will automatically connect parts, like brakes and steering, to the internet, making them vulnerable to massive hacks, potentially by hostile governments.

The report, titled “Kill Switch,” points to the possibility of widespread crashes and chaos resulting from hackers controlling fleets of cars. It references videos of so-called “white hat hackers” hacking into individual cars to expose the issue.

Many car makers have acknowledged potential vulnerabilities in their annual filings. And CBS13 confirmed Ford admitted in its SEC filing that it has been “the target of hacks” and that more “are likely to occur in the future.”

Consumer Watchdog is urging car manufacturers to install an inexpensive kill switch in all connected cars, giving drivers the option to disconnect from the internet in an emergency.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and this is the most frightening issue that I’ve ever worked on,” said Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court. “We are talking about the possibility of a 9/11-scale attack on America and the carmakers remarkably know it and haven’t fixed it.”

In response, carmakers say cybersecurity is a top priority, and that they are equipping vehicles with state of the art feature and partnering with public and private research groups to develop a series of best practices on cybersecurity.

The authors of the report say these types of hacks would be very expensive to pull off, so the most likely culprit would be some sort of hostile government.

To read the full report, click here.

Julie Watts is the CBS13 Investigates reporter. Her stories air Monday-Friday on CBS13 News.

Consumer Watchdog
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