How to Protect Your Car from Being Hacked

By: Robert Siciliano  |  January 8, 2016


If you’re half asleep or texting while driving (which are both deadly), and you crash the car into a building…it may be zero percent your fault. That’s because hackers can now “get into” a smartcar and make it crash—theoretically (and quite realistically) gaining control of the steering wheel and accelerator—of a vehicle that’s connected to the Internet of Things. Technically speaking if the hood of the car is in some way connected to the cars computer, they may even be able to pop the hood open, blocking your view of what’s ahead.

According to a recent report by Intel Security “Whenever something new connects to the Internet, it is exposed to the full force of malicious activity. When something as complex as a modern car or truck is connected, assessing the scope of threats is an immense job, and an attack surface may be left unprotected by accident. Many security vulnerabilities now extend to vehicles, such as malware, Trojans, buffer overflow exploits, and privilege escalation.”

Essentially, hackers can gain control of your car as long as it’s connected to cyberspace. Many cars today come off the assembly line with WiFi capability which is where most of these hacks begin. But can you can protect your vehicle from hackers?

  • You aren’t doofus enough to leave your cars WiFi password exposed inside your car, are you?
  • Learn which of your vehicle’s wireless systems can be remotely operated, then secure these with the help of the manufacturer or any third parties that offer guidance. Google it.
  • Bluetooth can connect your vehicle to your phone. But this is pointless if you don’t use this connectivity. Deactivate it at once if you never use it.
  • In the unlikely event if your car seems to be mysteriously possessed, such as a ghost seemingly doing some of the steering or the radio suddenly turning on, pull over pronto and turn off the engine. Have the car towed to the dealer.
  • Sign up for software updates through your manufacturer.
  • A connected car is like a computer: Firmware should always be kept up to date.
  • Before using an on-car Wi-Fi hotspot, do your research on the make and model to see if there any known vulnerabilities.
  • Avoid using valets whenever possible. A valet is in a prime position to tamper with your car’s on-board diagnostic port—which would enable the stranger to control your car. A mechanic could do the same thing. Be leery of any stranger who has access to the inside of your vehicle.
  • Purchase only those vehicles that have been thoroughly field tested.
  • Sign up for manufacturer recalls.
  • As technology evolves, vehicle manufacturers need to keep parallel with this by improving the security of their products. But they need to be heavily nudged to do this. You can help get this ball rolling by urging federal representatives to get passionate about this.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to discussing  identity theft prevention.

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