Can your RV be hacked and cause a crash?
Driving an RV takes a certain level of skill, almost akin to being a seasoned truck driver. You have to be a defensive driver the entire time and anticipate what every driver is doing, or might do next. You are not always driving at full highway speeds, and you certainly cannot zoom in and out of traffic conditions like you can with a car. Oftentimes, you might even be towing an auxiliary vehicle or a toy hauler trailer At each moment, you imagine the worst, and prepare for it.
But imagine the following scenario: You are driving your RV along at 60 MPH, and suddenly your air conditioner comes on, full blast, but you cannot turn it off no matter what buttons you press. Next, loud music begins to blast from the RV’s sound system. Next your wipers turn on by themselves and the start squirting fluid into your view. Then you loose control of the steering and braking systems. All this is followed by your transmission shifting into lower gears until finally forcing you to come to a complete stop on a highway. You look into your rearview mirror to see a large truck headed right for you. Terrifying isn’t it? We this exact same situation occurred in St. Louis this week, luckily it was controlled demonstration of how a car could potentially be hacked. While this was not demonstrated on an RV, it was demonstrated in an SUV, and at the moment reveals a vulnerability for all Chrysler Dodge and Jeep Vehicles. So Dodge truck chassis, and Dodge pick up truck driver, take notice.
This hacking was actually a controlled experiment to reveal potential automotive cyber risks. Two years prior, this same team demonstrated their ability to hack into a vehicle’s controller area network, known technically as a “CAN bus”. This is basically the brain for the car, a communications system that connects components inside a vehicle. Last year, an automotive software company demonstrated their ability to install a Trojan horse on an aftermarket plug-in device used by insurance companies on some insurance policies. This company was then able to wirelessly and remotely control a vehicle’s critical components, including the engine, brakes, and steering.
The Jeep Cherokee that was hacked into and described in the first scenario exposed wireless networks as the weakest link in high-tech, and automotive safety. However because the first hackings required a physical connection as with a cable, this latest attack happened completely wirelessly via a Sprint cell phone and the vehicles Uconnect infotainment center. The attack on the entertainment system seems to work on any Chrysler vehicle with Uconnect from late 2013, all of 2014, and early 2015.
Can remote hacking really happen to your RV?
Opinions among auto makers and Insurers with regard to the likelihood and ease that a vehicle’s control system could actually be hacked. But the proof that something like this could actually happen concerns makers of usage-based insurance and also telematics experts.
The type of vehicle hijacking described by the SUV breach hackers is unlikely to occur, because vehicle connectivity is still too limited to accommodate hacking on the scale carried out by those hackers. The only reported hacking incidents to date were the product of long-term research conducted by dedicated teams with access to the specific programming and code of the vehicles that were hacked. In the future the auto manufacturing industry will address the hacking threat before it has the potential to become a danger.
Current reports indicate that manufacturers are already developing technologies to encrypt and secure vehicles to protect them from hacking. There is also a new group of security companies who are working on providing safeguards for carmakers with continued growth indicated in in the coming years. The hope is that this will also make its way into the RV marketplace.
Among Insurance providers, the trend is moving away from aftermarket devices to track your car and driving habits, such as plug-in dongles, which are potentially more vulnerable to hacking.
The connected cars of the future will also be safer and more reliable vehicles than those built today. These cars will be both safer in overall construction and materials used, but also safe from cyber attacks. In addition, carmakers could add technologies that could facilitate the collection and usage of telematics data for insurance purposes, realizing that it also has a positive effect on vehicle security. This will make it easier for customers to share their driving habits with their insurance companies in an exchange for lower insurance rates.
Automakers need to be held accountable for their vehicles’ digital security. “If consumers don’t realize this is an issue, they should, and they should start complaining to carmakers. This might be the kind of software bug most likely to kill someone said one automotive cyber security safety expert.
So the short answer is, your RV is safe, for now. But it is physically possible for someone to hack into your RV in the future as has been demonstrated already. So Far Congress has taken notice, and so have automakers. Potentially 471,000 vehicles on the road right now could be vulnerable.
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