GM Hires Jeep Hackers as Detroit Battles Silicon Valley for Tech Talent

By Mike Colias Features Dow Jones Newswires

Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller made names for themselves a couple of years ago when they remotely hacked into a Jeep made by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. Now they are going to work for General Motors Co.

Continue Reading Below

GM's self-driving-vehicle subsidiary, Cruise Automation, has hired the cybersecurity experts from two major ride-sharing firms, the latest salvo in a war for tech talent between Silicon Valley and Detroit. Mr. Valasek was working as Uber Technologies Inc.'s top cybersecurity expert, and Mr. Miller had worked at Uber before leaving in March to join Didi Chuxing, China's largest ride-hailing firm.

GM is looking to move into a leading position on autonomous vehicles that are connected to the internet and can be updated over the air. While the developments will expose vehicles' software to security breaches, introducing cars that drive themselves and are easy to upgrade is central to GM's race against tech giants aiming to gain ground in the car business, including Uber, Tesla Inc. and Google Inc.

Messrs. Miller and Valasek became well known in automotive circles when they successfully hacked into the wireless controls of a moving Jeep Cherokee from a laptop many miles away, manipulating the climate control settings, stereo and even disabling the transmission. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Jeep's owner, issued a recall days later to fix a potential cybersecurity flaw on 1.4 million vehicles.

The Jeep hack was a watershed moment for the auto industry, raising questions about the safety of internet-connected vehicles and how auto makers would combat potential threats. GM, Chrysler and other auto makers hired hacking consultants and beefed up controls to prevent data breaches.

Messrs. Miller and Valasek were set to start work at the GM subsidiary on Monday, Cruise founder and Chief Executive Kyle Vogt confirmed in a tweet. Uber confirmed Mr. Valasek's departure and wished him well.

Continue Reading Below

GM has about 80 employees globally working on cybersecurity, led by Jeffrey Massimilla, who was appointed chief product cybersecurity officer in 2014, a GM spokeswoman said.

GM Chief Executive Mary Barra said last week that the auto maker is working toward offering over-the-air updates of conventional vehicles by 2020. Tesla Inc. for several years has used the technology to wirelessly modify a car's suspension system, for example, or to add new features.

Write to Mike Colias at Mike.Colias@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 31, 2017 16:16 ET (20:16 GMT)