In an email blast to subscribers today filled with ominous warnings, Consumer Reports, the nation’s biggest consumer watchdog and advocacy organization, called on its members to write congress looking for more government-mandated security for car-based computer systems.
Citing a report released back in February by Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Consumer Reports said “auto companies are failing to secure their wireless systems against privacy intrusions and, in some cases, even sharing personal vehicle information such as where drivers parked with third parties.”
CR asked its members (it has more than 6 million, but its unclear how many got the note) to fill in a form letter that would automatically be sent to congress.
“Something this important should not be left to each auto maker on a voluntary basis. Just as seat belts are mandatory, so should computer security be mandatory. I strongly urge Congress to mandate standards to protect the data, security and privacy of drivers,” the form letter, signed by CR’s Vice President Chris Meyer reads, in part.
The full note—filled with dire warnings (“What if someone could take control of your car’s brakes, steering system or instrument panel by hacking into one of your car’s computerized systems?”) — is below. (I reached out to Consumer Reports for comment, and haven’t heard back yet.)
The issue of car hacking—especially worries that someone could remotely control braking and steering–has been around for years, but it has become increasingly high-profile as computers come to dominate the way vehicles operate. A report by FORBES in 2013–and an accompanying video that demonstrated two hackers wrestling control of a car from a reporter while he drove—helped set off a national discussion on the issue and helped prompt Sen. Markey’s investigation.
Not everyone, of course, thinks the issue is quite as grave. Writing a day after a 60 Minutes piece on the issue timed to coincide with the release of Markey’s report, Forbes Contributor Doug Newcomb reminded readers that while car computer security is very important, “there’s been only one case of a malicious car hack, and that was an inside job by a disgruntled former car dealer employee.”