Over the past several decades, cars have become increasingly high tech allowing for computers to take larger roles in the routine functions of the car. Computerized functions have been a boon to consumers, who advantage from greater reliability and efficiency, but also to criminal hackers who advantage from greater vulnerability.
Starting around the turn of the last decade tech enthusiasts started toying around with the concept of hacking into cars. So-called "white hat" hackers, who seek out exploits in technology so companies can fix them, successfully attempted to remotely disable a sedan's breaks and allowed for companies to take hacking into consideration when developing future models.
Notably, a study done by two researchers discovered a vulnerability in Fiat Chrysler's vehicles which caused a massive recall of 1.4 million vehicles. After the incident, the company created a tool for car owners to constantly check for updates available to make their car safer whenever the Chryslers become aware of a threat.
The trend has become so troubling to automakers that most auto companies now employ entire firms dedicated to attempting to find exploits in their cars' software. Tesla recently profited from employing such efforts when Keen Security Lab was able to remotely take over a Tesla Model S car. Due to the alert afforded by the security team's efforts Tesla was able to create and distribute a patch immediately before any nefarious parties could take action with the flaw.
The common theme between all these examples is the company seeking out flaws in its own technology so as to better serve consumers and ensure greater safety for the public. To the public's knowledge no criminal entity has yet determined how to remotely hack into a car on the market, but due to the lawless actions taken by entities within the federal government, that could soon change.
Threat From The CIA
Researchers within the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have been creating tools to hack into consumer vehicles. While the spy agency is within its alleged charter to create tools for espionage designed to keep Americans safe, their actions surrounding this technology have done the exact opposite.
The CIA has a horrific track record of keeping its hacking arsenal a secret. By seeking out exploits in automobiles without notifying automakers of their efforts and findings the CIA has explicitly endangered the lives of drivers across the globe. Already criminal entities are weaponizing the tools lost by the CIA and other government agencies. In short, the CIA created major dangers to car owners within America and abroad through both its own intentional actions and unintentional negligence.
Even if the CIA could be trusted to hold onto the secret tools and ensure that it would be the only entity with the power to remotely take over cars there is no guarantee Americans would be safe. During the tenure of the CIA forces within the organization have long sought to increase the scope of their operations and actively engage in operations on US soil. There is no telling the grief that the agency could cause with this technology. Already there is speculation that the agency has used this technology on American citizens, such as Michael Hastings.