Luckily for Jeep and for owners of the new Cherokee, the discovery was made by security-minded hackers as part of a planned demonstration, in partnership with technology website Wired.
The security experts revealed the extent of the control available to hackers, taking over not only the entertainment and heating controls, but also the system that manages the vehicle’s steering, brakes and transmission.
The test saw the successful disabling of the vehicle’s engine and brakes, sending the already slow-moving Cherokee and its (unharmed) driver into a shallow ditch.
Fortunately for Australian owners who may have previously lamented its absence in local models, it was only the availability of internet connectivity in US-market models that gave hackers the gateway needed to take control of the affected Cherokee.
Speaking with CarAdvice today, Fiat Chrysler Australia communications manager Andrew Chesterton confirmed that because internet connectivity is not available outside of the US, local models are not vulnerable to the software exploit.
In the US, Jeep has moved quickly to address the issue, releasing a software patch last week that owners can apply themselves, or have a dealer install for them.
But, while Australian owners needn't be concerned with this latest hack, there are now a number of vehicles available locally with internet connectivity, meaning that there is potential for owners of those vehicles to suffer from a genuine malicious attack.
It won’t be a walk in the park, though. Carmakers, aware of the dangers, are investing more and more into digital security as their vehicles become more 'connected'.
Tesla in particular has launched a hacking contest aimed at discovering and closing potential entry points for hackers, and Ford has likewise invested in a Silicon Valley centre with a focus on technology and security.