Hacking a Car Might Lead to Life in Prison, According to New Bill

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Hacking a vehicle might be the cyber-crime of the century, and Michigan lawmakers are trying to take action before this becomes a menace.
Two Michigan state senators, Mike Kowall and Ken Horn, have put together a bill that proposes the implementation of a felony charge for those who hack cars. The maximum suggested sentence for the charge is life incarceration.

The bill wants to punish those who “intentionally access or cause access to be made to an electronic system of a motor vehicle to destroy willfully, damage, impair, alter or gain unauthorized control of the motor vehicle.

Unfortunately, the proposition is so poorly written that it might cause unfortunate punishments to those who are working in the tuning industry.

If you look closely at the words used in the bill, like those quoted above, one could be sentenced for adding an aftermarket multimedia unit, or for other improvements, like flashing an ECU.

While the intentions of the proposed law are right, and the purpose is to eliminate potentially malicious car hackers, the bill can be interpreted against those who modify cars. As CNET’s Roadshow notes, the people who “hacked” Tesla’s API to implement voice commands to the Model S’s “Summon” feature could go to jail if this law were approved in its current form.

Car hacking is certainly a potential danger, but introducing hastily-written legislation to forbid it could lead to more severe hazards for the automotive industry. As the prohibition has proved, forbidding something does not stop the phenomenon, and having your car hacked could still be a possibility over the years, even with such legislature.

Meanwhile, we hope Michigan legislators will think further on the path of preventing hackers from accessing cars and drawing up an improved draft. Instead of just forbidding the tampering of vehicles, as the current proposition would do, legislators might just outlaw “hacking” cars to cause harm to others, as logic would usually dictate to those with good intentions.

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 Download: Proposed car-hacking law (PDF)

About the author: Sebastian Toma
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Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
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