I just finished reading this very interesting article in the latest issue of Forbes [Aug. 12, 2013]. Now don’t get me wrong, I did find the article interesting, I’m just disappointed. Let me explain. Anytime I can read about connected technology, and more importantly, what thought leaders have to say about where it’s headed, I’m all in. But for me, this article, and the two individuals that were featured, did just the opposite.
It saddens me when the general media gets caught up in all the hoopla and likes to stir it up just for shock value. And this time, I can’t just sit on the sidelines and do nothing. I’m calling Forbes out because in my estimation the publication is better than this. I hate to admit it, but much of today’s mainstream media likes to shock us with what they report and how they report it. We see more and more of it on TV and in the tabloids. But again, I would like the think the articles you read in publications like ours, and Forbes are simply better than that.
However, in the article entitled, “Hackers Reveal Nasty New Car Attacks—With Me Behind The Wheel,” the author created nothing more than another version of Orson Welles great adaptation of the H.G. Wells science fiction novel War of the Worlds. As you will recall, Welles dramatizes the Martian invasion of Earth during an episode of his popular radio show. Many believe the invasion was so real, it triggered a mass panic.
I think that is what we have here when you tell everyone that your connected car is going to be hacked by some bad guy that is going to cut off your power steering or that your brakes will just stop working as you are driving 55 mph down the highway. That will sure to send shivers down the spine of any driver young and old, and Martians invading Earth might seem like little blue Smurfs.
This might be a ridiculous analogy, but this is serious stuff. Couple the fact that you have two heroes here that are going to take the auto industry to task for not taking this problem seriously. Martians. Yes, the dramatization has begun.
What bugs me most about this is rather than moving the industry forward into the 21st century, let’s imply we are putting more lives in harm’s ways, when the real truth is that by not using connected technology V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) or (vehicle-to-infrastructure) we are actually putting more lives at risk.
Rather than espousing the good that a vehicle’s computer will do by analyzing all the vehicles’ surrounding information and alerting a driver of any hazards, long before the driver can see the other vehicle, this article spent more column inches to these two pompous hackers demonstrating what they can achieve in a lab environment. What’s more important is that with V2V and V2I we are talking about crash scenarios with unimpaired drivers preventing thousands of automobile crashes.
Look at the facts, during the past 10 years there have been thousands of crashes, such as a motorcoach driver colliding with a bridge; an engineer ignoring a red-light signal while texting, resulting in a head-on collision and 25 deaths; a bus driver missing a yield sign and killing one and injuring 15 more; just to name a few. All of these could have been prevented. The attention of a driver can be diverted by other internal or external sources with the right connected technology, and car manufacturers are working toward this goal.
It takes a lot of arrogance for two hackers to assume their skills far exceed that of an entire car industry. I guess an $80,000 grant gives a 31-year-old director of security intelligence consultancy firm and a 40-year-old security engineer at Twitter the petulance to assume they have more technical experience than an entire auto industry and the hundreds or researchers who have already tested these tools and recognize the fragility of any wireless technology. DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) might have been the one that coughed up the money to find security vulnerabilities in automobiles, but I am certain its objective was not to scare the pants out of American motorists. Reading this article, there is no doubt the Martians have landed and they are now the hackers in every connected car.
Good job gentlemen. The goal was to make Americans excited about open data and to build our confidence in “Big Data.” Unless I have been abducted by aliens already I’m pretty certain that the car companies don’t want their automobiles to be hacked and they certainly don’t want any of their customers to be physically harmed along the way. Even the NTSB (National Traffic Safety Board) has seen the light when it comes to connected-vehicle technology in reducing the tremendous death toll resulting from intersection crashes. Saving lives is not a game. But I guess to Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, it’s all about their 15 minutes of fame.
“If the only thing keeping you from crashing your car is that no one is talking about this,” says Miller, “then you’re not safe anyway.” Sure seems a like modern day broadcast of a Martian invasion to me … How about you?