Fiat Chrysler said that a software patch it had released a week earlier was designed to plug the hole used by the same two researchers, who had alerted the company before going public. But the breach showed just how vulnerable the new breeds of web-connected vehicles can be, and the challenges that manufacturers face in defending against the types of attacks common in other technology fields.
"Customers are demanding new capabilities and more technology, so the risk is only going to increase for vehicles," said Jon Allen, a web security expert at Booz Allen Hamilton. Auto manufacturers, he said, "know they need to get ahead of this from a security perspective."
Such a web-enabled threat is relatively new for the industry: Complex computer software has been used for years to power cars' performance, but those computerized brains were always walled off inside the cars themselves; they were not connected to the wider world.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.