It took GM 5 years to fix a vulnerability that let hackers activate car brakes at high speeds

It took GM five years to fix a vulnerability that left some of its vehicles at risk of hacking, Wired’s Andy Greenberg reports, with hackers able to activate brakes at high speeds and surreptitiously track vehicles.

In 2010, security researchers discovered a way to gain access to the OnStar computer systems deployed in millions of GM vehicles, giving them “complete control of the car except steering,” according to Karl Koscher, one of the researchers. The vulnerability had been reported on before, but with the brand of the vehicle obscured and certain details omitted to prevent malicious actors attempting to replicate it.

A complete fix was rolled out in late 2014, after GM spent five years trying to address the issue. (Some vehicles remained vulnerable in previous attempts.)

“The auto industry, as a whole, like many other industries, is focused on applying the appropriate emphasis on cybersecurity,” GM chief product cybersecurity officer Jeff Massimilla told Wired. “Five years ago, the organisation was not structured optimally to fully address the concern. Today, that’s no longer the case.”

In short: The industry has only recently caught up to the threat that hacks and vulnerabilities potentially pose to connected vehicles.

Car hacks made international headlines earlier this year when another team of researchers demonstrated it was possible to cut a jeep’s transmission while travelling at high speeds on the highway. Chrysler subsequently recalled 1.4 million vehicles.

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