Carmaker Recalls 1.4 Million Vehicles Over Hacking Fears

A Jeep SRT Grand Cherokee on display at the Chicago Auto Show media preview February 6, 2014.

A Jeep SRT Grand Cherokee on display at the Chicago Auto Show media preview February 6, 2014. Darren Brode/Shutterstock.com

Fiat Chrysler is pulling late-model Dodge Rams, Dodge Chargers and Jeep Cherokees.

Fiat Chrysler on Friday announced a voluntary recall of roughly 1.4 million cars that have been manufactured with certain Internet-equipped radio-entertainment systems, a move that comes amid heightened alarm about the capabilities of hackers to remotely hijack vehicles.

"The recall aligns with an ongoing software distribution that insulates connected vehicles from remote manipulation, which, if unauthorized, constitutes criminal action," the company wrote in a press release on its website. "The security of [Fiat Chrysler] customers is a top priority, as is retaining their confidence in the company's products."

The recall includes Dodge Rams, Dodge Chargers, and Jeep Cherokees manufactured between 2013 and 2015 that come equipped with 8.4-inch infotainment system touchscreens, the company said.

"Accordingly, FCA US has established a dedicated System Quality Engineering team focused on identifying and implementing best practices for software development and integration."

The voluntary recall follows a crushing wave of public concern about the increasing encroachment of Internet-connected devices into everyday life after an article published in Wired demonstrated how hackers could infiltrate a Jeep Cherokee's "infotainment" system and remotely crash the car. The Wired reporter detailed how his Jeep's brakes were cut, "leaving me frantically pumping the pedal as the 2-ton SUV slid uncontrollably into a ditch."

Chrysler tried to downplay concerns of the kind of nightmare scenario detailed in the Wired article. The company said that such "software manipulation" would require "unique and extensive technical knowledge, prolonged physical access to a subject vehicle, and extended periods of time to write code." It added that "no defect" had been found in the cars being recalled.

Customers who own vehicles included in the recall are being asked to contact Fiat Chrysler for a software upgrade that will provide additional security features. According to the company press release, customers will be able to receive a USB device to initiate the software update.

Sens. Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal, both Democrats, introduced legislation this week that would require certain critical software in cars be isolated and create a "cyber-dashboard" rating system for vehicles.

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