A critical weakness of Jeep's Uconnect infotainment system has allowed a group of professional hackers to gain remote control of a Cherokee by exploiting the car's internet connection, allowing them to, among other things, disable the car's brakes and engine.
The vulnerability was revealed in an article published on tech website Wired, ahead of the upcoming Black Hat cyber security conference in Las Vegas next month.
In it, the writer was subjected to a disabled transmission and disabled brakes, as well as less dangerous interference to the radio, climate control and windscreen washers.
The hack can also track a vehicle without the driver's knowledge.
How? Hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek were able to get access to the car's oboard computers via its internet-enabled Uconnect infotainment system, planting code that would allow them to control it via a computer many kilometres away.
And it's not just the Cherokee that's vulnerable. According to Miller and Valasek, any 2014 or 2015-model Jeep with the Uconnect system can be hacked into in a similar way.
But while previous attempts have been (successfully) made to hack into a car's onboard, this is by far the most public demonstration of what a determined hacker could be capable of.
Miller and Valasek have shared their findings with Jeep (which has released a software update that affected owners can download), and while they will release their methods at the Black Hat conference their intent is to draw attention to the issue of vehicular cybersecurity, not encourage others to disable vehicles remotely.
While a frightening wake-up-call, Fiat-Chrysler Australia, the local importer of Jeep, assures us that all of their products - including the Cherokee - are safe from any potential hackers.
"No vehicles in Australia nor any international market outside of the USA were affected by this issue, as it is an American-only system not present in Australian vehicles," the company said in a statement issued today.
"Vehicles sold in Australia and other international markets are not equipped with an external cellular connection."
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