It is very important for a journalist to not only understand the basics of a subject but to ask questions and understand all aspects of a topic. It is even more important, especially dealing with technology because one misunderstanding changes everything.
Take the case of the 60 Minutes, DARPA GM car hack that aired on Sunday. A DARPA agent took over control some parts of the car. Lesley Stahl could not longer drive it. The car was thinly disguised. Basically, they put a black mask on the car and expected that it would not be identified.
Starting on Sunday night, bloggers began speculating what car it was and how it was hacked. It was called a last generation Chevy Impala. Almost all reports missed how old the car was that was hacked.
It took a day to discover that GM has worked with DARPA for five years and that they were using an older generation of OnStar that is most likely fixed by now on a 2009 Chevy Impala.
Meanwhile, people were freaking out. Senator Ed Markey released a report saying that car makers don’t know what they are doing when it comes to security. It snowballed into a giant fear quagmire.
Security firms were saying that they could have prevented the hack. Analysts in the know, such as Strategy Analytics’ Roger Lanctot, said that GM car owners should not be concerned.
People in the industry know that the security holes in cars are very difficult to hack. I also suspected that in an older car, if you turned off the OnStar, you would not have to worry about being hacked.
Because of the extreme Google pressure on journalists, things get published without thinking or asking first.
I asked, I thought and I was one of the few people who did not panic. A story on “Why you don’t have to worry about your car being hacked” is not as dramatic but is more truthful.