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Wireless Carjacking on the Freeway

  • Published: July 22, 2015

Remember all those old video games where you could hack into a vehicle, and how ridiculous that sounded at the time? Well, welcome to another episode of sci-fi law as we delve into the exploits of a pair of hackers who have managed to take control of a car wirelessly that was moving at 70 miles per hour at the time. The man inside, though in on the test and having been assured of his safety, was powerless to stop them.

The two men, Miller and Valesk, have developed a suite of attack commands that allows them to, among other things, turn off the transmission, kill the brakes, take control of the steering wheel, and track the car via GPS on a virtual map.

Back in 2013, these two men showcased a wired hack that allowed them to do these things as long as they were plugged into the car. The car companies significantly downplayed this discovery’s importance claiming that it didn’t mean much since one had to be connected to the car to do it–their cars were perfectly secure wirelessly.

This of course, prompted the hackers to seek a wireless method and, due to the advance of technology, they found one. New cars are more and more being turned into large driving smartphones. A program called Uconnect is the backdoor that allows these hackers to take over a vehicle as long as they know the car’s IP address.

The two researchers will be disclosing their findings at a black hat conference to others in their field. They are, however, making two allowances towards public safety: They gave their research first to the car companies to allow them to create a patch and will be leaving out a key component that took the creators months to figure out.

The car company, though appreciative of the advance notice, was understandably less than pleased by the idea of disclosure of the program that hacked its cars. However, the hackers are resolute that these are software problems that the companies need to be held accountable for because they could get people killed.

This brings up the question of liability. Who is at fault in an accident involving a hacked car? Perhaps the company who made it that failed to provide sufficient cybersecurity. Surely the hackers themselves. But what if the hacker is untraceable? What of the driver of the car, is he in any way at fault when his car, out of his control crashes into another vehicle or a pedestrian? And a more concerning question–how does the driver establish his innocence?

These are all interesting and complicated questions that will have to be answered as we move forward into the technologically advanced world of computerized and wirelessly accessible cars.

About the Author Abronson Law Offices have extensive experience representing individuals
injured in industrial, premises or auto accidents, we strive to be approachable
to our clients, and seek to make them comfortable.