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Taunton Gazette: U.S. Sen. Ed Markey presses automakers on cybersecurity

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., is once again putting pressure on automakers to protect their vehicles from cyberattacks.

Markey and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., sent letters Wednesday to 18 automakers asking for updates on how they are protecting the computer systems within cars and trucks from being hacked. They also want to know if any changes have been implemented since the two lawmakers first raised the issue with the automakers 22 months ago.

Public concern over the issue revved up this summer after researchers for Wired magazine remotely hacked a Jeep Cherokee from miles away to show how hackers could take control of windshield wipers, brakes, steering and other systems. Although Fiat Chrysler recalled 1.4 million vehicles to fix the vulnerability, Markey called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to determine if other vehicles were similarly vulnerable.

Markey and Blumenthal, who serve on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, also introduced legislation that would direct NHTSA and the Federal Trade Commission to establish federal standards to secure cars and protect drivers’ privacy. It would also establish a rating system to inform consumers about how well the vehicle protects drivers’ security and privacy beyond those minimum standards.

“As vehicles become increasingly connected to the Internet and to one another through advanced features and services, we continue to see how these technologies present vulnerabilities that can compromise the safety and privacy of drivers and passengers,” they wrote the automakers. “We have specifically learned how third parties can access the electronic controls and data of vehicles from many different entry points, including wireless connections, and we appreciate that many automotive companies have begun to take concrete steps to close these security gaps.”