Security researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Vlasek made headlines last month when they hacked a Jeep while it was driving down the highway at 70 MPH. The willing target? Wired writer Andy Greenberg.
From a distance, Miller and Vlasek were able to control the Jeep’s vents, the radio, the windshield wipers, and more. Though the pair obviously didn’t do anything to put Greenberg’s life in danger, the hack gave them the ability to to control the Jeep’s entertainment system along with steering and braking controls.
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Now comes word via Reuters that both Miller and Vlasek will be heading to Uber where they’ll work within the company’s Advanced Technologies Center. Located in Pittsburgh, the center itself was the source of some controversy earlier this year after Uber poached 40 researchers and scientists from Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Center.
Miller confirmed the new position via Twitter late last week.
Looking forward to starting Tuesday with the great team at @Uber Advanced Technology Center. Should be a cool challenge and a lot of fun.
— Charlie Miller (@0xcharlie) August 28, 2015
With autonomous driving seemingly in our midst, Uber is not only taking steps to be at the forefront of that revolution, but is also making moves to ensure that autonomous cars are as impervious to hacking as possible.
As Uber plunges more deeply into developing or adapting self-driving cars, Miller and Valasek could help the company make that technology more secure.
Uber envisions autonomous cars that could someday replace its hundreds of thousands of contract drivers. The San Francisco company has gone to top-tier universities and research centers to build up this capability.
Uber on Tuesday announced a partnership with the University of Arizona, offering the school grant money to fund research into the mapping and safety technology needed for autonomous vehicles, which Uber will test on the streets of Tucson, Arizona.
From a security perspective, bringing Miller on board is a stroke of genius. A former NSA employee, Miller has made a name for himself over the years via a number of impressive exploits that run the gamut from smartphones, desktop operating systems, and even NFC related technologies. The first widely publicized hack Miller was a part of involved a SMS vulnerability in the iPhone which could enable a malicious hacker to take over a device simply by sending a single text message comprised of a special character.
Before joining Uber, Miller spent the last three years working at Twitter as part of their security team.
As a final point, while we’re on the topic of hacking cars, we recently highlighted how hacking a Tesla Model S, while perhaps possible, is harder to hack than any other car out there.