In recent years an increasing number of smart cars have made their way onto the market, offering car owners an array of smart features such as being able to track your vehicle using GPS, assess the diagnostics of your car such as the tire pressure and see your engine’s oil life. As useful as these features can be they can also open cars up to being hacked and easily stolen by criminals.
Most Common Vulnerabilities
- Car Alarm: Surprisingly car alarms are one of the main vulnerabilities in smart cars, after-market alarms can be particularly vulnerable to outside intrusion. Hackers can exploit flaws within the insecure direct object reference (IDORS) software of the alarm; hackers can track the vehicle’s GPS, unlock doors and even kill the vehicle’s engine while driving. This can make it too easy for criminals to steal cars when they are not being used and disable and unlock cars as they are being driven so that they can be carjacked.
- Key Fobs: You may have heard about criminals being able to clone credit or debit cards so that the copy they have made has the same functionality as the original. Criminals can do the same thing with your car key fob; if they can place their dodgy devices close enough to your car key fob they can make a clone, which can allow hackers to unlock and drive off with your car. You can buy electromagnetic-resistant cases for car key fobs to prevent hackers from cloning your key fob.
- On-Board Diagnostics: Vehicles manufactured after 1996 in the United States are required to have an onboard diagnostics-II (OBD-II) port, this allows mechanics to directly communicate and manipulate the computer systems on the car. Since this mechanism is designed for mechanics it can bypass all of the security systems of the car, hackers can take advantage of this and bypass the security systems of the car themselves.
How To Prevent Your Car Form Being Hacked
Update Your Cars Firmware
Keeping your devices updated is good practice in general, cars are no different. When software updates are released, hackers look for vulnerabilities and exploit them. It can take hackers time to find these security flaws and take advantage of them, at the same time software developers are releasing new security patches to hopefully plug security gaps within their software. This is why it is so important to ensure that your devices remain updated to stay ahead of the hackers.
Deactivate Previous Owner’s Access
When purchasing a second-hand smart car one of the first things you should do is deactivate the previous owner’s access to the systems on the smart car. This prevents the previous owner from locating and stealing the car back if they were feeling unscrupulous. When it comes to selling the car you should ensure that your logins are cleared from the car systems to prevent future users exploiting access to your account.
Disable Unused Smart Services
If you don’t use certain connectivity ports in your car such as Bluetooth connectivity you should turn them off or even disable them. This can make your car less vulnerable to being hacked.
Don’t Be A Beta Tester
When beta versions of the software are released there is a possibility that it may be full of security vulnerabilities, as the software may not have been extensively tested by the developer before being released. When it comes to cars you have many different types of models that often have the same software package included, new versions of beta software may not work optimally with the car model you have. This means that the car make and model you have may have a known security flaw, meaning hackers may set out and purposely target cars that are more vulnerable than others. Increasing the chances of your car being stolen.
Only Use A Trusted Mechanic
Mechanics have been known to claim that perfectly healthy cars need expensive repairs so that they can cash in at the misfortune of their customers. However, since the advent of the smart car, unscrupulous mechanics may hack your car whilst they are repairing it, allowing dodgy mechanics to steal your car once you get the car back. Alternatively, mechanics could add some dodgy code to your car that causes your car’s warning systems to activate after a certain amount of time, prompting you to take your car that may be perfectly fine back for another round of expensive repairs. By choosing to get your car repaired by a trusted mechanic you can reduce the possibility of these situations happening and can potentially save yourself significantly down the road.
Ask Questions When You’re Buying Your Car
When you are looking for a new smart car you should ask the car dealer to describe the cyber security systems your car has on board and how you can best make use of them. You should be asking which systems can be operated remotely, which of these systems are connected and how they are secured. Ideally, you should buy a car so that you can be reassured that somebody can’t disable your car’s engine and unlock your car’s doors at the click of a button.
Report Problems Quickly
If the smart features of your car suddenly start malfunctioning you should take your car to an authorised dealer as soon as reasonably possible to hopefully get answers about the cause. If your car was hacked you can get your car assessed by mechanics who may be able to help prevent your car from being hacked in the future. If you sat back and did not report smart feature malfunctions when they happen it is possible that your car could be increasingly damaged over time.
Park Your Car In Safe Locations With CCTV
Parking your car in safe locations with CCTV is good practice whenever possible even if you do not have a smart car that can be hacked. But parking your smart car in a safe location such as a car park, such as Bond Street car park which has 24/7 CCTV systems. This can spot and record hackers unlocking your car and driving off, which may help authorities recover your car and find the criminal responsible.
Taking measures to ensure the security of your car is always a worthwhile thing to do, as it could prevent your car from being stolen.
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