Reports of people using laptops to steal cars dates back almost a decade to a 2010 study at the University of Washington done by computer scientist Tadayoshi Kohno attempting to prove that computer hackers don’t necessarily hack only computers.
Since then, there have been a number of computer hacking rings targeting cars with their laptops. Back in 2016, a couple of hackers were arrested in Texas and accused of using Fiat Chrysler Automotive software on a laptop to steal Jeeps, among other vehicles. The hackers tapped into the Fiat Chrysler database and reprogrammed the vehicles to accept a generic key. An estimated 100 vehicles made it over the border into Mexico using this method.
Nissan was forced to suspend its Leaf smartphone app; GM suspended its OnStar App; and Fiat Chrysler recalled over 1.4 million vehicles due to these compromised cyber-security issues.
Security researchers believe that the widening arena of internet-based appliances, vehicles, and medical equipment is not properly protected. According to Reuters, this conclusion is prompting bi-partisan action in the United States Senate. Republicans Cory Gardner and Steve Daines and Democrats Mark Warner and Ron Wyden are putting forth a bill that tightens regulations on cyber-security among everyday appliances, including vehicles.
Reuters also reports that by 2020, around 20-30 billion everyday appliances will be connected to the internet, largely unsecured. The proposed Senate bill would require manufacturers to ensure proper cyber-protection in these devices, protecting the American consumer.
But for now, our cars are at risk, so we must be diligent.