Better be safe than sorry.
It was back in 2015 when Wired magazine figured it’d be interesting to try an experiment. Could a pair of cybersecurity experts manage to take control of a brand-new Jeep Cherokee using only their laptops and hacking skills while being miles away from the vehicle? The answer was yes, and it caused quite a big stir in the auto industry. Overnight, automakers, particularly Fiat Chrysler who recalled 1.4 million vehicles, were forced to completely re-examine their vehicles’ cyber security measures, and find faults before real-life hackers did.
But what happened to the two hackers Wired featured? Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek have now been hired by GM subsidiary Cruise Automation, according to The Detroit News. Both will work as software engineers. "Our cybersecurity mantra recognizes that in order to prevent the worst, you need to engage the best. We believe we can build more secure systems by bringing on the people who excel at defeating them. Protecting the safety and security of our customers is of utmost importance," stated a GM spokesperson. Before joining GM, Valasek worked at Uber in a similar position, and Miller also worked at a ride sharing company, China’s Didi Chuxing.
The Jeep Cherokee hack was quite a big deal and it’s gone down in both automotive and hacking history as a game-changing event. Miller and Valasek didn’t take complete steering control of the vehicle, but they did manage to disable its engine functions and take control of its air conditioning, locks and radio. Today, all mainstream automakers have cybersecurity teams, and some, such as FCA, even pay cyber experts bounties of up to $1,500 for hacking information. As for GM, in 2016 it bought Cruise Automation, then a San Francisco-based start-up. Together, they are now testing more than 50 self-driving Chevrolet Bolts in Detroit, San Francisco and Scottsdale, Arizona.