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Can Hackers Take Control of Your Vehicle’s Steering and Brakes?

Self-driving cars for driving assistance systems can keep you out of accidents, lower fuel consumption, and prevent traffic congestion, and while that might sound like a recipe for lower auto insurance premiums, the technology might not be ready quite yet. We’ve seen self-driving cars that can perform with incredible precision, and many driving assistance systems like automatic parking and stop-start cruising are already available to the public, but what happens when automotive manufacturers fail to stay one step ahead of hackers?

The vulnerabilities lie in the Uconnect system, an infotainment and driving assistance platform designed to allow car owners to control their car, to some degree, with their smartphone. Functions include the ability to start the car remotely and perform other, smaller functions like toggling headlights and opening doors. But, as recent history has shown time and time again, smartphones and the networks they’re attached to can be compromised, often with damaging results, and now the risks are greater than ever. Could those risks impact your car insurance quotes? Hopefully, the problem will be solved before that becomes an issue.

The three most vulnerable vehicles are…

– 2014 Jeep Cherokee

– 2015 Cadillac Escalade

– 2014 Infinity Q50

… But any vehicle featuring the Uconnect system can theoretically be compromised.

This was recently demonstrated by two security experts who targeted a Jeep Cherokee being driven by a journalist from Wired. The two were able to break into the vehicle’s infotainment system and inject a small chunk of malicious code, and after that was done, the vehicle was almost completely under their control. They were able to take complete control of the radio, blasting music into the vehicle as they tinkered with the A/C system, turning it on full blast. By the time they were done, they had disabled the vehicle’s transmission, brakes, and steering, and the vehicle was later found stuck in a ditch. The driver was unharmed, but that might not have been the case if the hackers weren’t two friendly security experts.

“If consumers don’t realize this is an issue, they should, and they should start complaining to carmakers. This might be the kind of software bug most likely to kill someone,” says Charlie Miller, one of the two hackers that took control during the demonstration. The two plan to share their findings at the Black Hat security conference on August 1st to raise awareness for the dangers of connected vehicles. They’ll be leaving out key information to ensure that other hackers can’t take advantage of the vulnerability themselves, but at this point, it’s a race between Jeep, who is rushing out a security update to stop hackers, and the hackers themselves.

There is a way to protect yourself, however, and we recommend that you follow these steps as soon as possible. Updating your vehicle’s software is as simple as moving a file from one device to another. You’ll want to download the update file from your vehicle manufacturer’s website, place the file on a flash drive, and plug that flash drive into your Uconnect-enabled vehicle’s USB port. After that, the process should be automatic.

If you have any questions, you can contact your vehicle’s manufacturer or your local dealer today. Many dealerships will install the update for you, free of charge, and it is extremely important that you update your vehicle as soon as possible, and don’t forget to call or click Cost U Less today for affordable and flexible California auto insurance.

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