As you know cars are more and more reliant on technology. Internet connected cars provide everything from GPS directions, to entertainment to monitoring how well you and your engine are performing. And anything connected to the Internet can be hacked.
Recently the FBI issued a public service announcement warning that cars are increasingly vulnerable to hackers and are encouraging victims to report incidents. The warning was issued jointly with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and cautioned consumers and manufacturers to be aware of the risks of car hacking.
Car hacking is real! In July of 2015 a group of researcher demonstrated how they could take control of a vehicle including braking and steering while it was traveling at 70 MPH.
Technological advancements in cars are simply amazing. On board computers control numerous vehicle functions including steering, braking, acceleration, lights and windshield wipers. Cars also have wireless capability, including smartphone and Bluetooth syncing, keyless entry, ignition control, tire pressure monitoring, and diagnostic, navigation and entertainment systems; all vulnerable to hackers. Many new cars offer autonomous systems for emergency braking and even steering. The new BMW 7 Series sedan allows the driver to release the steering wheel for up to 15 seconds. Audi is offering a car that can drive in traffic jams and even find a parking space and park itself without the driver even being present. Not in the future, TODAY!
The FBI warned car owners that wireless vulnerabilities could be introduced by third-party aftermarket devices often used by insurance companies to monitor drivers. Devices like Progressive Insurance’s Snapshot come with Internet or cellular access and plug into your car’s diagnostics ports. These devices are an open gateway to automobile control systems.
The FBI and NHTSA urge consumers and manufacturers to take action to minimize the vehicular cyber security threats related to vehicle technologies.
Consumers are urged to maintain awareness of the latest recalls and updates affecting their vehicles. But criminals are also aware of these updates and it is possible criminals may exploit this delivery method. The FBI has warned that online manufacturer updates are vulnerable. Hackers using social engineering tricks could send an email messages to vehicle owners searching for legitimate software updates. These messages could trick them into clicking on links to malicious websites, opening attachments containing malware, or installing malware from USB drives. To minimize the potential risks vehicle owners should always verify any recall notices received, check on the vehicle manufacturer’s website to verify to if any software updates have actually been issued. Owners are warned to avoid downloading software from third-party websites, and use only trusted USB drives.
Is your car vulnerable? There is a list of the most hackable cars on the road available.
Breaking It Down
Cars have changed. All those wonderful luxuries you enjoy in your new car come at price that is a bit more than money. Hackers are not likely to take over your car trying to kill you. That is possible but not likely. But there is the danger of some childish asshole hacking cars for fun and creating a situation where someone could get hurt or killed. It’s more likely a hacker will hack your keyless entry system to unlock your car to steal it or something out of it. They could also potentially disable your car the same way they disable a computer and force you to pay to get your car back. It will probably happen and may already have.
When buying a new car with all the cool new technology you need to sit down with your salesperson and have a nice long conversation about your car’s security features. Make sure you understand how software upgrades are handled. Make sure you also understand how those driver monitoring things from the insurance company works. Another vulnerability you need to look out for is connecting your smartphone to your car via Bluetooth. Everybody has a few apps on their phones. Apps carry malware and one of those apps may interact with your car in ways you were not expecting.
The bottom line is you need to understand more about your car than just keeping it on the road and operating the stereo and air conditioning. Those days are long gone. When shopping for a car do your research and know what technology you are getting and how secure it is.