Last Month’s Jeep hacking scandal has already been followed by a 1.4 million vehicle recall and a well-timed Senate bill. Now Chrysler faces that other inevitable punishment: a potentially massive lawsuit. On Tuesday, three Jeep Cherokee owners filed a complaint against both Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Harman International, the maker of the Uconnect dashboard computer in millions of Chrysler vehicles.
A security flaw in that cellular-connected computer served as the entry point for security researchers Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller when they showed WIRED last month that they could wirelessly hack into a 2014 Jeep over the internet to hijack its steering, brakes, and transmission. Now the small group of plaintiffs is hoping to invite anyone with those vulnerable Uconnect systems in their car or truck to join them in their litigation. If their complaint is certified by a court as a class action, the broad spectrum of affected Chrysler vehicles means it could snowball into a case with more than a million potential plaintiffs.
In their complaint against the two companies, plaintiffs Brian Flynn and George and Kelly Brown accused Chrysler and Harman of fraud, negligence, unjust enrichment and breach of warranty. They point out that Valasek and Miller alerted Chrysler to their findings of architectural vulnerabilities in Jeep Cherokees in a paper in early 2014 that mentioned connections between the Jeep’s Internet-enabled entertainment system and its CAN Bus, the network that controls critical driving features like steering and brakes. Those connections, the plaintiffs argue, represent a serious defect in vehicles Chrysler and Harman knowingly sold to customers. “The [affected] Vehicles are defectively designed in that essential engine and safety functionality is connected to the unsecure UConnect system through the CAN bus,” their complaint reads. “UConnect should be segregated from these other critical systems. There is no good reason for this current design. The risks associated with coupling these systems far outweigh any conceivable benefit.”