The car industry just saw 'the shot across the bow' for cyber vulnerabilities

The cybersecurity issues that led Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV to recall 1.4 million vehicles this month could pose a problem for cars and trucks from other automakers, the top U.S. auto safety regulator said on Friday.

Mark Rosekind, who heads the National Transportation Safety Administration, said his watchdog agency is trying to determine how many car makers received wireless components from the same company that supplied Fiat Chrysler.

“The supplier didn’t just supply radios to Chrysler but to a lot of other manufacturers,” Rosekind told reporters. “A lot of our work now is trying to find out how broad the vulnerability could be.”

In the first action of its kind for the auto industry, Fiat Chrysler last week announced the recall 1.4 million U.S. vehicles to install software to prevent hackers from gaining remote control of the engine, steering and other systems.

The announcement by FCA US LLC, formerly Chrysler Group LLC, followed reports that cybersecurity researchers had used a wireless connection to turn off a Jeep Cherokee’s engine as it drove, increasing concerns about the safety of Internet-enabled vehicles.

The researchers used Fiat Chrysler’s telematics system to break into a volunteer’s Cherokee being driven on the highway and issue commands to the engine, steering and brakes.

Jacob Nyborg, communication and marketing manager of Fiat Chrysler EMEA, stands next to the new Fiat 500L Living and Trekking model during a presentation in Arcore July 4, 2013. REUTERS/StringerThomson ReutersJacob Nyborg, communication and marketing manager of Fiat Chrysler EMEA, stands next to the new Fiat 500L Living and Trekking model during a presentation in Arcore

“This is the shot across the bow. Everybody’s been saying ‘cybersecurity’. Now you’ve got to step up,” Rosekind said. “You’ve got to see the entire industry proactively dealing with these things.”

NHTSA has already been in contact with the Jeep Cherokee researchers and hopes to learn more not only about their work but how serious a reaction they have seen from the auto industry.

“It’s not just about the hack. It’s what the response from the industry has been to see whether or not their issues have been acknowledged and what they’re planning. And that’s the part we have to see going forward,” Rosekind said.

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This article originally appeared at Reuters. Copyright 2015. Follow Reuters on Twitter.

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