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Armed with nothing more than the car’s IP address, this exploit allows infiltration of the car’s internal network via the WiFi hotspot, allowing the firmware to be completely rewritten to grant access to the car’s physical controls — the steering, brakes, accelerator, and more. Some of these can be controlled directly, other simply disconnected, but all are critical to road safety.
Without needing a physical connection, or even a password, hackers have managed to remotely control a car on the highway. The demonstration was organized by two security researchers for Wired‘s Andy Greenberg, as they hacked into his Jeep Cherokee and took the wheel, via the internet. First they demonstrated peripheral access, controlling the fans, stereo, windshield wipers, and wiper fluid. Then the attack got serious.
Purely remotely, and not having had physical access to the car at any prior point, the attackers were able to inactivate the transmission, disconnecting the engine from the drive train and functionally putting the car into neutral. The exploit can also control with the car’s brakes, but in their initial attack the hackers chose to let Greenberg bring himself to a stop on an operational freeway on-ramp. The journalist was forced to call and ask the hackers to let up, his safety now dependent on a stranger’s willingness to voluntarily refrain from exploiting a vulnerability that exists in every Jeep Cherokee currently on the road — and potentially in every other modern Chrysler vehicle, given some basic tweaks to the attack.