STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Hackers Can Use Your Car to Kill You
By Philippe Gastonne - July 28, 2015

The Jeep's strange behavior wasn't entirely unexpected. I'd come to St. Louis to be Miller and Valasek's digital crash-test dummy, a willing subject on whom they could test the car-hacking research they'd been doing over the past year. The result of their work was a hacking technique—what the security industry calls a zero-day exploit—that can target Jeep Cherokees and give the attacker wireless control, via the Internet, to any of thousands of vehicles. Their code is an automaker's nightmare: software that lets hackers send commands through the Jeep's entertainment system to its dashboard functions, steering, brakes, and transmission, all from a laptop that may be across the country.

To better simulate the experience of driving a vehicle while it's being hijacked by an invisible, virtual force, Miller and Valasek refused to tell me ahead of time what kinds of attacks they planned to launch from Miller's laptop in his house 10 miles west. Instead, they merely assured me that they wouldn't do anything life-threatening. Then they told me to drive the Jeep onto the highway. "Remember, Andy," Miller had said through my iPhone's speaker just before I pulled onto the Interstate 64 on-ramp, "no matter what happens, don't panic." – Wired, July 21, 2015

The news last week that "friendly" hackers could seize remote control of a vehicle forced Fiat Chrysler to recall 1.4 million vulnerable cars and trucks. Fiat Chrysler said in its statement, "The Company is unaware of any injuries related to software exploitation, nor is it aware of any related complaints, warranty claims or accidents – independent of the media demonstration."

This carefully worded phrase may be true, as far it goes, but skeptics have suspected foul play in several fatal crashes the last few years. Their suspicions are suddenly more credible.

Buzzfeed writer Michael Hastings, for instance, died in a fiery Los Angeles crash in 2013 after his car suddenly accelerated straight into a palm tree. Why would someone hack his car and kill him? Consider his background.

In his previous position at Rolling Stone, Hastings wrote a 2010 report on General Stanley McCrystal's disparaging comments about Vice President Joe Biden. President Obama removed the general from his position commanding U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

General McCrystal's sudden departure opened the door for General David Petraeus to take command in Afghanistan. Petraeus would later become CIA Director, only to lose his job for revealing national secrets to his mistress. He now works for private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and recently attended the famed Bilderberg conference. McCrystal joined the faculty at Yale.

While the generals enjoyed their golden parachutes, Michael Hastings went on to criticize the Obama administration's aggressive "war on journalism." On June 17, 2013, Hastings told colleagues in an email that he thought the FBI was pursuing him and he might need to go "off the radar." He contacted a WikiLeaks lawyer that same day.

At 4:25 AM the next day, his Mercedes crashed into a tree and exploded in flames. His widow later said he was working on a story about new CIA Director John Brennan.

So what happened? Maybe it is all coincidence. The FBI denied investigating Hastings. Maybe the journalist who took down one top general and elevated another just happened to fall asleep at the wheel.

We can't know for sure what happened to Hastings. We do know for sure that it is now technically possible to take control of a vehicle and make it do undesirable things, like crash into palm trees at high speed.

The hackers profiled in the Wired report are surely not the only ones with this ability. It's no stretch to imagine that CIA and Pentagon experts have the same skill. Would they use it to silence a critic?

Maybe they already did.

Posted in STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
  • Bruce C.

    It’s no fun thinking that “the authorities” could have such remote control of one’s car, for example, but if word of this gets out it may be the authorities themselves who may face the greatest dangers from rogue hackers. This could be one of those rare opportunities in history – perhaps even an unprecedented one – in which all kinds of world figures, the “powerful”, “leaders” and “important” people who are normally untouchable can be snuffed out by disgruntled citizens. If that sort of thing develops it will be interesting to see who gets targeted.

    • Guy Christopher

      Interesting observation, Bruce. I was thinking drones, but sending a sedan off a cliff would work just as well.

    • Bill Ross

      “snuffed out by disgruntled citizens”

      Not a recommendation, BUT:

      http://www.outpost-of-freedom.com/jimbellap.htm

      • Wow! We’re getting to the point, where that could actually work!

      • Bruce C.

        Amazing. Where do you find this stuff?!

        • Bill Ross

          All you have to do is look, see, remember, comprehend, act…

          In the armory of the internet reformation and, the memory hole, real history where the “all seeing eye” dumps “inconvenient truths” that have resulted in their repetitive past demises which they slowly, patiently, implacably claw back from by subverting the apparatus of state.

        • Bill Ross

          …and, within the mob of the “state”, that is how they dispose of dissenters, those who risk gaining sufficient oppositional consensus and / or have undeniable evidence regarding corruption / machinations.

  • bobjonestwo

    Michael Hastings.

    • Michael Hastings, reporter for Rolling Stone and BuzzFeed had an EXPLOSIVE EXCLUSIVE he was to disclose….

      on the CIA/NSA crime syndicate….got hacked Mercedes EXPLOSIVE exit….GM OnStar hears all, controls all….

      Andrew Breitbart had EXPLOSIVE EXCLUSIVE on CIA/NSA, he got the shellfish toxin exit.

      “How to Steal An Airplane, from 9/11 to MH-370” a Colbert Report on youtube….this technology for aircraft….

      AbleDanger.net has a series of article on “non interruptible, remote control autopilots on AirBus from 1989, Boeing from 1996″….

  • Carol K.

    David Wilcok wrote about this a year or so ago….It seems entirely possible….I hope Bruce C. is correct that ‘what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander’ ???

  • Nikolai Lee

    There is, I believe a technique called the “Boston Brake” which suddenly jams the steering on a car,and is triggered off by a radio signal. It was suspected that something of the sort happened to Princess Diana, and also to Edward Kennedy, thereby killing Mary Jo Kopechne, and also his chances of ever running for President. It’s a dangerous world we live in.

  • WrinkledThought

    All the more reason to drive much older cars….

    • OutTheFed

      What about flying? Hopefully one doesn’t find themselves on a trip with a target/s.

  • stevor

    if we had REAL TERRORISTS, they’d hack o’bama’s car

  • WPalmer

    It does speak of how much care of security is given to the “computerization” of automobiles. The automakers are in such a hurry to get these vehicles on the sales lots, do they do sufficient testing? Obviously not.
    Years ago when On Star was selling GM’s vehicles for them it crossed my mind, as the encroachment of these systems started to allow remote access to these vehicles, how long before someone could gain total control of the vehicle altogether.
    The well publicized problems that Toyota was experiencing, but not exclusive to that company. with sudden acceleration, we were assured was an errant carpet, or some such nonsense. Was this someone tinkering with a bit of random code that somehow went astray?
    Or how insulated are these systems from spurious radiation from other equipment in the area, transmitters, medical equipment etc:
    The Honda Civic with its well documented daylight driving light problems was 90% poor solder joints but went across over 5 year models.
    Honda knew, but did nothing about it, and hoped you didn’t find out.
    Automobile companies work hand in glove with their respective governments, and give the same amount of protection, or at least half of the vehicles on the roads would be under recall.

  • Centurian

    I took my Chrysler vehicle to the shop for help when it locked up uploading a new map in the GPS system. The mechanic attached a wireless transmitter to the standard diagnostic outlet under the dash and then showed me the 20 something computers in the car. I asked what information they held and he proceeded to show me that on XX day, months before, in a certain location in FL I was driving 73 in a 70mph zone and had left my left turn signal on for X seconds.

    Law enforcement agencies are already starting to use this accumulated data to locate where a vehicle was and what it was doing during a crime. The information is also used in accident investigation and prosecution.

    The fact that my adaptive cruise control is already hooked up to the accelerator, brakes and entertainment system is a big concern. An recent episode of Extant comes to mind, in which the self driving car stops on a railroad track in front of a presumably self driving train. The occupant tells the car to get off the track and the car answers that it is 30 feet away. He tries to get out and demand that the car unlock the doors. The car answers that the doors are locked for his safety. Bam!

    I don’t know if any of this has actually been exploited, but the pieces are certainly all there.

    • esqualido

      I once had a dream that, just as I was about to enter Heaven, St. Peter presented me with an itemized list of every stop sign and red light I had run, and informed me I could not enter till the fines had beern paid- it looks like Detroit has made the nightmare real.

  • Bill Ross

    every useful tool can be re-purposed as a weapon

    which is more “correct”:

    a) Ban the tool (guns…)
    b) Ban the freedom to use the tools, except for the “approved”

    c) Deal with those who harm others (criminals, by their actions, not group identity) and leave our tools / technology and freedoms alone

    BTW; It would not surprise me at all if the hackers in this article were supported / financed by truckers drivers unions who must be terrified of the implications of driver-less (automated) vehicles.

    • That’s a good “follow the money” thought. I was thinking it was the auto-makers themselves scaring everyone into buying auto-security and firmware updates.

    • Sheryl Ann

      Hey, Bill, as a commercial trucker myself, I agree that driver unions know their power playing days are numbered because driver-less semis are on th e way. They are actually already being tested at this moment.
      To the government, truck drivers who are too busy driving all day to get programmed through school, television or movies & we are becoming just too dangerous to have around. Drivers actually might think for themselves, have individual minds & hold opinions contrary to the current set of memes. That’s what happens when you’re not being constantly programmed & out of the loop because of working hard almost all of the time. Working minds are dangerous things. Hell, we’re driving 36,000+lb vehicles down streets & highways. We’re driving to & fro, busy delivering all kinds of goods all over the nation for the average American who has lost the ability to do much of anything for oneself, especially think. The vast majority of the population would have no clue how to grow their own food, nutritious or not, make soap, butter, clothing or furniture or repair their everyday things which may break. Well, truckers wheels keep help most Americans in the consumer mindset as opposed to the former producer mindset of times past. Americans are dependent, not independent. Truckers move the things people don’t believe they can exist without. And we’re potentially dangerous.
      This is just one of the reasons that Ronald Reagan deregulated the trucking industry during his administration. He actually saw the amount of power each individual driver at that time. When truck drivers went on strike & literally crippled the nation for a temporary amount of time, he decided to punish the individual driver since he did not have the ability to replace the industry. Through deregulation, he transferred the individual driver’s power & money over to the unions & trucking companies, who would supplement the government through political contributions & legislative lobbying. Individual truckers don’t really have much time or inclination to spend their money except at truckstops or during what little time they have at home. Better for big business to make the money & screw the individual. After his changes, many, many truckers pulled out of the industry or retired early. There just wasn’t enough money to account for being away from wives, kids, home paired with too much stress, bad weather, & ever increasing traffic. It just wasn’t worth giving up one’s life for a near thankless job. And sure enough & eventually, there came a new crop of drivers to replace who didn’t know any better.
      Just subscribe to the Truckers Report & you’ll see the insane amount of clout the unions wield in the industry, transportation legislation & state & federal spending budgets for roads, bridges & infrastructure. It’s really insane. And I assure you, they’re not looking out for the individual driver, baby. It’s about politics, power, money, & control. For the time being they walk hand-in-hand with the FDOT and claim the new & coming technology is about safety. Bill, those articles claiming friendliness are only a temporary front. There’s a lot of money to made for a short time longer, but soon enough human driven vehicles will become a thing of the past & the unions will take their money & influence & move on to some other frontier.
      So much for freedom. Think 1984, no private vehicles, no windows to look out of vehicles when you do travel & only the ability to legally purchase the items State approves of & claims to exist.

  • Fabian

    My next car is going to be a bike.

  • fieldmcconnell

    This remote control feature is also on every Airbus, Boeing, Embraer and Bombardier airliner. Google [ BUAP + ATI + MH370 + MH17 ]
    The multinational Corporation Serco is capable.

  • mary

    See “Cars Do Not Blow Up” http://whilewesleep.webnode.com/news/a33/

    Whether by a hacked car, a bomb, a drone or all of these, Michael Hastings was murdered. If you think that computer controlled functions on a car is technology that the car industry has cleverly exploiting for the betterment of mankind, consider Michael Hastings. I drive a 1983 300 sd.

  • sovereigndust

    I drive a ’95 Kia and I’m sure it has computer chips onboard, but they are not accessible by radio or internet. Make chips that only do a dedicated task, like changing fuel/air ratio between reasonable set limits. Obviously, with no ports to access these chips, they are isolated from hackers. Eliminate internet control completely. If you want internet in the car, bring your laptop. If they hack your laptop, at least they can’t crash your car.

  • This is so obvious a set up I cannot believe we didn’t see it earlier. The trend was that the auto industry would come up with an innovation, and the government would make it mandatory – fuel injection, air bags, emission control, safety features. So the auto industry introduced more innovations requiring more computing power, requiring a centralized CPU. Of course the system is hackable now that some fool has integrated blue tooth and wifi into the system. With auto-parking systems now the car can be taken over entirely. Make sure to update your auto-anti-virus and firewall, for a modest subscription of course.

  • Patrick Watson

    To everyone who thinks driving an old car will protect you, think again. You are still on the same road as everyone else. If the PTB want you dead, they can simply hack a newer vehicle and make it crash into yours.

    • Bill Ross

      why limit paranoia (awareness)? You can be a pedestrian, on a bicycle, passenger on a plane or transit and they can still “get you”.

      Not to mention, “lone, deranged, random” assassins and, their laws of physics defying (Kennedy) single bullets.

loading
Sign up now and join our exclusive international network for free-market thinkers
Privacy Assured: We will NEVER share your personal information.