Connected Vehicles Raise Cybersecurity Concerns: What To Be Aware Of

Motor vehicle manufacturers who want to compete on the same level as some of the most innovative companies of all time must learn how to integrate the latest technology into their vehicles. Today’s consumers have high expectations and want to feel connected even while they are traveling.

However, the more connection points in vehicles, the greater cybersecurity concerns become. Here are the cybersecurity issues involved with connected vehicles and what you should know about them to be safe.

 

INFLUX IN TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES IN VEHICLES

While the 20th century saw the birth of the automobile, the 21st century has observed its massive transformation into a highly connected device. Some of the most recent advances to automobiles from the last few years include:

  • Infotainment systems connected to over-the-air software updates
  • Vehicles that operate primarily off of electricity instead of fossil fuels
  • Autonomous driving that makes a driver behind the wheel less necessary
  • A multitude of apps that work in conjunction with a vehicle
  • Vehicle features that consumers can unlock online
  • Charging stations that communicate with onboard electronics

 

WHAT IS VEHICLE HACKING?

Vehicle hacking exploits vulnerabilities within the software, hardware, or communication systems inside of vehicles. Hackers may gain access to a vehicle to take control over it or to extract data that is electronically stored in the vehicle. Once hackers are able to infiltrate a system, they can install viruses that steal or corrupt data.

Why hackers want access to vehicle data

Today’s modern vehicles have 100 million lines of computer code, which is much more than that in passenger or fighter jet planes. By 2030, it is estimated that there will be three times this amount of code. This overabundance of code allows hackers the ability to access sensitive information about vehicle occupants, such as:

  • Personally identifiable information
  • Phone numbers
  • Contact lists
  •  Email addresses
  • GPS stored data

Hackers may also be able to gain unauthorized physical access to vehicles by using electronic systems to unlock and drive the vehicles. Some vehicle owners may be threatened to pay a ransom to regain control of their vehicle.

One of the most lucrative ways that hackers use the data they steal is by selling it to third parties. There is often a treasure trove of information stored electronically in vehicles, including:

  • Location data that shows where the driver has traveled recently
  • Personal identifying information to steal drivers’ identities
  • Information about the vehicle or owner to facilitate a scam

Hackers may also use the connectivity to vehicles to launch dangerous viruses in the system. Additionally, hackers sometimes use personal vehicles to gain access to other connected systems, such as from manufacturers or auto repair shops. Therefore, hacking can affect the entire value chain.

How can a vehicle be hacked?

Today’s modern vehicles have several access points where hackers can conceivably obtain sensitive data from unauthorized contact with them, including:

  • Engine control
  • Brakes
  • Sensors
  • Doors
  • Ignition switch
  •  Infotainment systems
  • Third-party apps
  • Over-the-air communications and updates

As vehicles become more connected, hackers learn new ways to infiltrate security systems.

Lack of standards

One of the reasons why it is currently so easy for hackers to gain unauthorized access to vehicles is because there is a lack of accepted standards related to cybersecurity in vehicles. This problem is exacerbated by many third-party software products that are used in conjunction with vehicles and may pose their own security risks.

While greater cybersecurity measures will likely be put in place in the near future, this does not help the vehicles that are currently vulnerable to attack.

Vehicle hacking methods and capabilities

Some hacking attacks occur when a criminal gains physical access to a vehicle. The criminal may use a thumb drive to install viruses on the vehicle or steal information out of the vehicle’s systems. However, most hacking methods are currently conducted remotely where a criminal uses a cellular network, Wi-Fi access, or the manufacturer’s backend system to complete their attack.

Once a vehicle is hacked, the criminal can do many things that may threaten your safety and jeopardize your privacy, including:

  • Remotely track your vehicle
  • Disable your brakes
  • Cause you to accelerate
  • Manipulate vehicle diagnostics to force you to get repairs you do not really need
  • Increase your key fob range
  • Download your driving data
  • Access your smartphone
  • Manipulate your windshield wipers

 

IMPROVING CYBERSECURITY FOR CONNECTED VEHICLE DRIVERS

The solution to ease your fears and concerns for preventing these hacking attacks is for the automotive industry to establish clear standards and abide by them. They should also work collaboratively with software developers to ensure that information is not vulnerable. When considering the issue of protection from cyberattacks, it will require cooperation with all affected parties to achieve sustainable results.

Tips to prevent cybersecurity risks

Until the automotive industry takes a stance to protect your privacy, it is incumbent on you to minimize the risk you face. Some tips to prevent cybersecurity risks include:

  •  Use a VIN check tool – You can use this tool to identify and authenticate the car and its user. This can help you avoid purchasing or renting a vehicle that has had previous issues.
  • Stay up to date on vehicle recalls – Pay attention to recall notices that you receive since the manufacturer may not learn about cyber vulnerabilities until after the vehicles have gone on the market.
  • Apply software updates – Set your software to update automatically so that you will instantly receive security patches as soon as they are available.
  • Do not modify your vehicle’s software – If you install a remote or wireless system that disables or monitors your vehicle, you will be at the greatest risk since hackers may be able to remotely access your systems.
  • Limit the apps you install for your vehicle – Avoid untrusted apps and avoid using unsecured connections when operating your vehicle’s web browser. Your manufacturer may not know about the potential security vulnerabilities of third-party servicers.
  • Use reputable shops when getting repairs – Since one of the potential sources of hacked vehicles can come from auto repair shops, be sure that you only use a shop you trust. Unscrupulous mechanics or auto shop owners can take advantage of their physical access to your vehicle to hack into it.

If you suspect that your vehicle has been hacked, contact your manufacturer immediately.

CONCLUSION

Using these tips above can help you minimize cybersecurity risks to your vehicle until auto manufacturers are able to catch up.

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Written by Patrick Peterson

Patrick Peterson is a writer/editor at AutoDetective. Born and raised in the automotive world. He’s a passionate writer who crafts exquisite content pieces about everything related to cars and bikes.

December 13, 2020

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