Before you worry about your Jeep being hacked, let’s remember this one thing

America’s nuclear codes were once set to 00000000.

As millions of Americans watched their 11pm newscast last night, they heard shocking stories about Jeeps and other Chryslers being hackable over the internet. As local news often does, stations coast to coast hyped how a team of researchers remotely commanded a Jeep to turn up the stereo and blast the air conditioning, turn on the windshield washers, and even throw the transmission into neutral — all over the internet.

There’s a lot of concern there, and rightfully so.

While more and more things in our lives becomes attached to the internet somehow, ranging from our smartphone to our TVs and then to our coffee pots, there’s no end to the mischief that hackers could do to our modern lives given the opportunity. We seem to be entering into an age where if it can be hacked, it will — Office of Personnel Management and Ashley Madison being two prime examples.

America was protected from accidental nuclear launches by 00000000, the equivalent of a password of “password.”

But let’s put it all into perspective.

Hacking a Jeep and commanding it to wash the windshield over the internet with a team of researchers is one thing, but it pales in comparison to what was allegedly standard practice for over 20 years — setting the code on America’s nuclear arsenal to 00000000.

You read correctly: while a team of researchers discovered they can hack a Jeep to set the air conditioning on full blast, a monkey could have activated a nuclear warhead capable of setting off World War III for over 20 years.

Before we all start worrying about whether hackers can remotely turn on our coffee maker, change the temperature on the fridge or even take control of a Jeep, let’s all take a step back and remember to set our passwords to something other than “password.”

Changing your password may not prevent a hack, but just that act alone means you have better security than America’s nuclear force once did. And if my coffee maker is hacked, it’s probably not going to start World War III.

As long as I get my coffee eventually.

Cover photo credit Andy Greenberg / Wired