Is the CIA Hacking Your Car?

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The advent of the connected car turned our cars into mini offices. We can make phone calls, surf the internet, and access any information we want all while in our little four-wheeled wonders. Connectivity is great, but it brings with it a new set of risks. Hackers can access your car just like they access your computer making your private information public. New reports suggest it’s not just random hackers, but the CIA, too.

WikiLeaks published a group of files on Tuesday that contains 8,761 documents from the CIA. They’re calling it Vault 7, Year Zero and it’s full of documents from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia.

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The huge collection of data contains details on how the CIA is hacking everything from iPhones to Microsoft Windows to Samsung televisions. There’s also a section that deals with what they call “vehicle systems” and this is the bit that has people worried about their cars.

The nature of WikiLeaks is that they don’t have sources that can offer confirmation or explanations about how the information was found or whether or not it’s true.

How nervous you are about this latest batch of documents depends on how much you buy what WikiLeaks is peddling. Either way, the idea that a government agency could hack your car is disconcerting. Why would they want to do that and how concerned should we be?

Hacking a car and listening in to conversations or collecting data is one concern. WikiLeaks, however, goes so far as to suggest the CIA could hack a car, gain control, and use it to assassinate someone. That’s some serious James Bond-level spy stuff right there.

Could they do this? Would they do this? If you haven’t seen it, you should check out the Showtime documentary Zero Days, which described how the Stuxnet virus took down centrifuges in Iranian nuclear facilities to see just how close to reality this kind of intrigue is. The Center for Cyber Intelligence exists, it’s at least a good bet that if the CIA has people that could burn out centrifuges from 6,700 miles away, that they could take control of a car if they gave it a shot.

It’s already known that other hackers have accessed vehicle systems and taken control. These have been good guys trying to demonstrate security flaws and they willingly shared their hacks so automakers could fix the problems. The CIA might not be so forthcoming.

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If you believe they can do it, should you be worried? Is some CIA operative going to take control of your car and drive you into a tree? While it could happen, it’s pretty darn unlikely. There’s no reason for the CIA to start hacking the cars of soccer moms and morning commuters just for kicks and giggles.

On the other hand, if you’re a covert operative driving a connected car, you might want to consider trading it for something built back in the Eighties.

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Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin