Cyber Security in Your Car: It’s Getting Complicated & Dangerous

 Cyber Security in Your Car: It’s Getting Complicated & Dangerous

Cyber security is not really a new term. Almost everybody understands that digital technology can have security flaws. Sure, it makes things like using the DVR on your Charter Spectrum cable service possible. But flaws in any digital network or infrastructure make it vulnerable to attack. And cybercriminals with the right tech knowledge are pretty good at finding and exploiting security flaws of all types. Even the ones that involve cars! 

That’s right! Cars, just like TVs, phones, and watches, are much smarter than they used to be. Car hacking has been possible as early as 2005. This is around the same time when vehicle manufacturers started using small computers that make running and maintaining the car easier. Since then, the number of car-related crimes including theft, carjacking, and even hacking has gone up. Find out why this happens and the kind of threats your brand-new car could be exposed to:  

Car Hacking and The Security Risks It Poses   

For many individuals, cars and hacking don’t immediately make sense in the same sentences. After all, hacking involves computers, coding, and devices. Cars run on fuel or batteries and exist in the physical world. So how does someone hack a car? The answer is simple.  

Manufacturers have integrated a lot of modern technology to make their vehicles efficient, convenient, and safer. The vehicles of today come with GPS, infotainment systems, smart braking, radar, and even cameras and microphones. And almost all vehicles these days have built-in onboard computers or ECUs. But almost all of this tech represents potential entry points for hackers. Here’s how your vehicle may be at risk:  

Smart Key Fobs  

Smart key fobs are a very convenient bit of vehicle tech. The tiny computer on the key fob can detect when it is near your vehicle. It can then send a signal to your vehicle to unlock the driver’s door. It’s a step further than a keyless entry system. The car will only unlock when you are in its proximity. So, you might think it’s more of a security feature than a flaw.  

But you’d be wrong. A key fob’s onboard transmitter is similar to that of an RFID card many businesses use. Which means it is fairly easy to clone. In fact, with very cheap equipment and a few tutorial videos, anyone can build a working cloning device. Once your key fob is cloned, a car hacker can unlock your vehicle. And since the fob also enables push-to-start ignition, they could drive away with your car.   

Central Server Risks  

Hackers don’t need to physically access your vehicle key fob to hack your car. Vehicle manufacturers and other businesses in the OEM supply chain use digital systems in many ways. And that’s where the conventional cybercriminal can hack you indirectly. A breach could potentially be disastrous across an entire class of vehicles or fleet of vehicles. Hackers could gain access to all sorts of information and even individual vehicle functions.  

Third-Party Applications  

Even if your car manufacturer has a burglar-proof car and an unbreachable system, your vehicle still is not 100% safe. There are still many risks that can enter via third-party applications. Consider your smartphone. If infected with something low-key like spyware, you could infect your car when you connect your phone to it. Or a third-party app installed on your Android infotainment system may be outdated, enabling hackers to find a way in.  

Third-party applications are often well-known apps like Spotify, Google, Facebook, and others. However, even the largest tech companies are not immune to check over your security breaches. The data lost from such a breach could relate to you, your vehicle’s unique VIN, and even security backdoors. Moreover, if you don’t regularly update operating systems and applications, your vehicle and devices become even more vulnerable.  

How to Protect Your Vehicle from Hacks 

Cyber threats and cyber security antivirus software continue to evolve. Sometimes, this evolution can often be a reaction. As new threats emerge, security software gets updates to combat them. This results in even more sophisticated threats emerging. In turn, cyber security then evolves to fight these newer threats. However, cyber security on its own is not enough. You have to do your bit in preventing possible attacks. That includes keeping your software and apps updated on your devices and vehicles.  Digital hygiene may also be a great practice to include in your day-to-day life. Don’t connect to unknown networks. Use VPNs as much as possible. Don’t download unauthorized applications from outside safe digital ecosystems. Always use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication on all your accounts. And above all, keep an eye on emerging cybersecurity news and trends. You may learn something that could protect your vehicle, which is a significant financial asset.  

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