Charlie Miller, a security researcher for Twitter and ex-NSA computer hacker, and Chris Valaseck, a vehicle security expert, made news recently when they demonstrated for Wired their ability to remotely hack into a Jeep Cherokee while it was being operated, potentially killing the driver of the vehicle. Fortune magazine is reporting the duo have been hired to work in a research lab for the popular car ride service, Uber. WhoWhatWhy explains their concerns about this development:
Nonetheless, we note with interest this development: A former NSA employee has now joined the staff at Uber, the rapidly expanding — some might say exploding — provider of ride shares.
Perhaps the word “exploding” should be used advisedly: This ex-NSA fellow, Charlie Miller, made a name for himself recently when he and another man — Chris Valasek who, like Miller, also just joined Uber — demonstrated that they could mount a remote hack on an automobile, essentially take it over and, potentially, kill the driver.
At WhoWhatWhy, we’ve been especially interested in the potential threat from car hackers because of the mysterious death of journalist Michael Hastings, whose Mercedes suddenly sped up, left a straightaway, mounted a curb, plunged into a tree, and exploded, sending the engine flying a long distance, something engines aren’t known to do.
We have no idea how Uber plans to use Miller’s talents. Presumably the company has no particular reason to fear that the cars of its “independent” drivers would be hacked — though perhaps such a concern was indeed the reason for these hires.
In any case, one could certainly imagine how Miller’s former employers might like to know more about where we all travel and who we are with.
At NSA, Miller was a “global network exploitation specialist.” Techopedia.com defines network exploitation as “a technique through which computer networks are used to infiltrate target computers’ networks to extract and gather intelligence data….”Interestingly, a major investor in Uber is the William Morris Endeavor talent agency based in Beverly Hills whose CEO is Ari Emanuel, brother of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It has been estimated the talent agency's original investment of between $5 and $10 million in Uber has grown by 60 times from its original value.