(Bloomberg) -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is offering a software patch to close a loophole that let two hackers take control of a moving Jeep sport utility vehicle in an incident spotlighting the vulnerability of connected autos.
The company responded a day after Wired magazine published a story about the software programmers who were able to take over a Jeep Cherokee while it was being driven on a Missouri highway. Fiat Chrysler said in a statement Tuesday that it’s not aware of any real-world unauthorized remote hack into any of its vehicles.
“This is a very big wake-up call for the industry that shows they have a weakness,” said Egil Juliussen, director of research for consultant IHS’s automotive technology group. “They are worried about it and thinking about what they need to do. But it will be awhile before cars are safe from a hacking attack.”
By 2022, 82.5 million autos worldwide will be connected to the Internet, more than three times the 26.5 million connected cars this year, according to IHS. In seven years, 78 percent of the cars sold globally will be connected, up from 30 percent now, the consulting firm said.
Fiat Chrysler said that “after becoming aware of the vulnerabilities in some 2013 and 2014 vehicles equipped with the 8.4-inch touchscreen systems, FCA and several supplies worked to fix the vulnerabilities in model year 2015 vehicles.”
The software update patches the hole in the vehicles’ entertainment system. Owners can download the fix to a thumb drive from a Fiat Chrysler website and install it in 30 minutes to 45 minutes or have the update done at a dealership, the company said. The automaker plans to contact customers who may be affected and has distributed the update to dealers.
The models affected include 2013 and 2014 Ram pickups and 2014 Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee SUVs, as well as some 2015 Chrysler 200 cars.
Automakers are starting to deploy anti-hacking software, but the defenses are not strong yet, Juliussen said.
“Four or five years ago, there was nothing” protecting cars from hackers, he said. “Today, the automakers are starting to put things in place, but there’s still a long way to go.”
Cars are not as rich a target as banks and retailers, which have credit card information and Social Security data hackers can use to make money. Because the vehicles lack such personal data, the auto industry probably won’t face a concerted threat yet from hackers, Juliussen said.
“There aren’t many ways to earn money from hacking a car,” he said. “You could wreak havoc with traffic flow or cyber warfare, but that’s not the sort of thing an average hacker would do.”
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