Revenge of the Nerds: OEMs Pay Hackers Less Than Most Other Industries

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

Most readers will remember Dennis Nedry from the first Jurassic Park movie, a computer subcontractor who brought down the entire park for numerous reasons – most of which had to do with money. In other words, John Hammond seemed to have “spared no expense” except for Nedry's services, and therefore Nedry ruined the entire project.

A new report suggests that some car companies may be acting in a similar manner – at least when it comes to the amount of cash they’re paying computer experts to find bugs in their code.

According to Automotive News, some OEMs may be lagging behind other industries when it comes to compensating the so-called ‘white hat hackers’. These computer pros are often tasked with finding bugs in computer code, specifically ones that could be exploited by nefarious individuals. This is why those employed are referred to as ‘white hat’ since they use their skills to identify problems and report them to a company. Those in the know legitimately call them ‘bug bounties’.

This is a big deal. Cybersecurity has always been top of mind as computers wended their way into our automobiles – but these days the issue is arguably of greater importance than ever before. In the not-too-distant past, hackers might have been able to gain access to a few systems, perhaps being irritating whilst setting off an alarm or causing havoc by unlocking the thing and stealing its contents. These days, the ramifications of a hacker worming their way into some cars are far more serious, since even things like steering and acceleration/brakes can be controlled by a few electronic pulses.

A general rule of HR is that it is an extraordinarily good idea to pay people what they’re worth – especially if those folks have a unique skill set. Having to retrain a new group of recruits after the last crew takes off for greener pastures can be time-consuming and expensive. If OEMs want the best ‘white hats’ working for them, they may need to open their wallets a bit further. Hackers taking control of hordes of vehicles in a city would cause terrifying havoc, creating a Maximum Overdrive scenario no one wants to see in real life.

After all, if Hammond had paid Nedry a few more bucks, maybe he’d still have his park.

[Image: Production Perig/]

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Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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  • Stephen Never had such a problem with my Toyota products.
  • Vulpine My first pickup truck was a Mitsubishi Sport... able to out-accelerate the French Fuego turbo by Renault at the time. I really liked the brand back then because they built a model for every type of driver, including the rather famous 300/3000GT AWD sports car (a car I really wanted, but couldn't afford.)
  • Vulpine A sedan version of either car makes it no longer that car. We've already seen this with the Mustang Mach-E and almost nobody acknowledges it as a Mustang.
  • Vulpine Not just Chevy, but GM has been shooting itself in the foot for the last three decades. They've already had to be rescued once in that period, and if they keep going as they are, they will need another rescue... assuming the US govt. will willing to lose more money on them.
  • W Conrad Sedans have been fine for me, but I were getting a new car, it would be an SUV. Not only because less sedans available, but I can't see around them in my sedan!