Back in 2016, WND reported a privacy organization’s warning that vehicle computer systems could be hacked and people could end up being injured.
Now a Wikileaks release of CIA documents shows the government had been working on plans to infiltrate the vehicle-control systems.
The concept is not fully described in the documents, but WikiLeaks summarized its finding: “As of October 2014 the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks. The purpose of such control is not specified, but it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations.”
It was in an Oct. 23, 2014, CIA “Branch Direction Meeting” of at least 10 people that the issue of “vehicle systems” being a “potential mission area” came up.
Also listed at the time were the “Internet of Things,” “Firmware targets,” “Network devices” and “Software targets.”
The document, as with many leaks by anonymous insiders to shadowy organizations like WikiLeaks, could not be verified immediately.
WikiLeaks said in a statement that the 8,700 documents reveal the “scope and direction” of the CIA’s agenda.
WikiLeaks says its source “details policy questions that they say urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the CIA’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency.”
“The source wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”
The concept of hacking vehicle systems long has raised concerns.
Last year, WND reported the Electronic Privacy Information Center asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to restore a case, Helene Cahen v. Toyota, focused on the electronic monitoring and Internet connectivity built into cars. A trial judge dismissed the case for lack of standing, but the brief contended the ruling should be reversed.
And it’s no longer just about privacy, it’s also about public safety, EPIC argued.
“The internal computer systems for these vehicles are subject to hacking, unbounded data collection, and broad-scale cyber attack,” the brief explained. “Despite this extraordinary risk, car manufacturers are expanding the reach of networked vehicles that enable third party access to driver data and vehicle operational systems.
“The plaintiffs in this case seek the opportunity to present legal claims stemming from the defendants’ sale of vehicles that place them at risk. That should be allowed to proceed.”
WND reported 2015 two U.S. senators proposed the SPY Car Act of 2015 to create privacy standards for computer systems that control today’s electronics-heavy vehicles.
The proposal came just as a Wired.com contributor reported hackers who set him up in a new vehicle were able to take over its controls while he was driving at 70 mph.
“As the two hackers remotely toyed with the air-conditioning, radio and windshield wipers, I mentally congratulated myself on my courage under pressure,” wrote Andy Greenberg at Wired in an article headlined “Hackers remotely kill a Jeep on the highway.”
In the 2015 article, he reported suddenly his vehicle slowed to a crawl, an 18-wheeler approached from behind and “the experiment had ceased to be fun.”
Privacy advocates have warned since 2011 about in-car tracking and other computer devices. Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center wrote then that data from embedded “black boxes” in vehicles could provide unwanted information to state agencies.
Later, the systems were upgraded, connecting vehicles to the Internet.
Greenberg explained that the industry’s Uconnect is prompting questions.
It’s an Internet-connected computer feature in hundreds of thousands of Fiat Chrysler cars, SUVs and trucks that controls the vehicles’ entertainment and navigation, enables phone calls and provides a Wi-Fi hot spot.
Greenberg noted the cell connection also “lets anyone who knows the car’s IP address gain access from anywhere in the country.”
The hackers with whom he was working, he said, have “only tested their full set of physical hacks, including targeting transmission and braking systems, on a Jeep Cherokee, though they believe that most of their attacks could be tweaked to work on any Chrysler vehicle with the vulnerable Uconnect head unit.”
Experts explain that in vehicles, everything, “engine management system, brake controller, airbags, seatbelt pretensioners, door locks, gauge cluster, sound system, seat controls, communications systems and telematics units are all interconnected.”
In short, that means “window switches have a potential path of communication to the brake controller, the entertainment system has a channel to communicate through to the vehicle’s airbags, and so on.”
Last year, WND columnist Craige McMillan warned: “Let’s face it: Hacking these vehicles isn’t a possibility; it’s a certainty. It might be a kid spoofing you, trying to make you crash. Maybe a gang that’s going to reprogram your destination and part out both you and your vehicle. Heck, they could even operate from overseas via your onboard Internet.
“Professional criminal gangs already orchestrate crashes on freeways and busy streets to bilk insurance companies; why wouldn’t they turn to hacking as well? A skilled team of such experts could probably hack you right up into a semi tractor trailer, bolt the door and take you and the vehicle anywhere they wanted.”
It was in 2013 that 33-year-old reporter Michael Hastings died in a fiery car crash “while in the middle of covering several hot-button topics like monitoring by the National Security Agency and the CIA,” the Daily News reported.
“Twitter, Facebook, and sharing site Reddit were abuzz Wednesday, with some users commenting that it was suspicious that Hastings, who famously brought down U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal in a Rolling Stone cover story, died while in the middle of covering several hot-button topics like monitoring by the National Security Agency and the CIA,” the report said.
BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, said: “He knew that there are certain truths that nobody has an interest in speaking, ones that will make you both your subjects and their enemies uncomfortable. They’re stories that don’t get told because nobody in power has much of an interest in telling them.”
The report said, Hastings also had recently written a piece of CIA operative Andrew Warren, who became paranoid that he was being followed, as well as the Rolling Stone piece published in March titled “Killer Drones.”