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Protect your Chrysler, Dodge, or Jeep from hacking

Fiat-Chrysler issues software updates for 1.4 million vehicles

Last updated: July 24, 2015 01:15 PM

Plenty of buzz has been made about the recent Wired.com story about hackers taking over a late-model Jeep Cherokee. But lost in the social buzz, story-sharing, and blame-gaming is what owners can do to protect themselves from the technical vulnerability. (Read “Can Your Car Get Hacked?”) Fiat-Chrysler America has since announced a voluntary safety recall of 1.4 million vehicles to update software.

As in-vehicle infotainment and connectivity has evolved, our cars have increasingly become mobile computers. As such, it is natural they will require software updates, much like your phone/tablet/PC does. Some of these updates enhance performance and safety, while others might address vulnerabilities. (Are you concerned about car hacking? Share your thoughts in the comments below.)

The key takeaway: If you own an impacted vehicle with 8.4 Uconnect (with or without navigation), a fix is available. But you need to be proactive and make sure it gets done.

In advance of the Wired story, Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles issued technical service bulletins (TSB) that includes “improved radio security protection to reduce the potential risk of unauthorized and unlawful access to vehicle systems” in order to prevent unauthorized “attempts to access vehicle systems through their open entry points.” While most TSBs are manufacturer-to-dealership communications that detail how to correct problems, in an unusual move, these TSBs include instructions on how owners can download and install a software update that close the potential entry points.

Read our special report on how to get your car fixed for (almost) free.

Chrysler 200C
Updating our test car.

Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles has a website where you can enter the Vehicle Identification Number of your car and download the update. You’ll find your VIN on the vehicle title, vehicle registration card, insurance card, and the small metal plate at the base of the windshield on the driver’s side. Since we originally published on this topic, FCA has expanded the reach of its software updates to address security and/or other software concerns.

Customers affected by the recall will receive a USB device that they may use to upgrade vehicle software, adding security features.

Vehicles included in the correction actions:

2015 Chrysler 200

2015 Chrysler 300

2015 Dodge Challenger

2015 Dodge Charger

2014-15 Dodge Durango

2013-15 Dodge SRT Viper

2014 Jeep Cherokee

2014-15 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2013-15 Ram 1500 pickup

2013-15 Ram 2500 pickup

2013-15 Ram 3500 pickup

2013-15 Ram pickup (Mexico)

2013-15 Ram 3500 cab chassis

2013-15 Ram 4500/5500 cab chassis

If you’re unsure how to handle the download you can have your dealer complete the update at no cost. Contact Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles Vehicle Care at 877-855-8400 with any additional questions.

We performed the update on our Chrysler 200C test car. It took about four minutes for us to download the 690 MB file to a flash drive. Once the drive was inserted into the USB port in the car, a verification screen appeared. From there, our car took 17 minutes to update. The whole process was quite straightforward.

Car hacking has made headlines this year, exposing newfound vulnerabilities in modern cars. Much like the computer industry, automakers will need to keep pace with the risks. Don’t be surprised if updates such as this may become more common.

In addition, Senators Markey and Blumenthal introduced a bill this week to toughen vehicle security and privacy standards; Consumer Reports is taking a close look at proposal.

Learn more about keeping your car safe from hacking.

Jon Linkov and Seung Min ‘Mel’ Yu

 


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