Gone are the days when we simply used vehicles for transportation. Yes, that’s still their primary purpose but these days, they’re also mini computers on wheels. From Bluetooth capabilities for connecting smartphones, to computerized systems like Lane Keep Assist and Auto Diagnostics, your vehicle is full of technology. This brings up the question: is your vehicle safe from cybercriminals and hackers?
Can hackers access your vehicle?
The simple answer to this questions is yes, hackers can access some of your vehicle’s onboard computers and electronic systems. Is it likely to happen to you? Not so much. There are two main reasons for this:
- No financial gain – Unlike smartphones or personal computers, vehicles don’t store a lot of sensitive information that a cybercriminal could use for financial gain. Why hack someone’s car when access to their credit cards or bank accounts via their smartphone would be more financially beneficial?
- It’s complicated – Breaking into your vehicle’s computer systems requires a great deal of knowledge and expertise. While many hackers are certainly intelligent enough to do so, the incentive simply isn’t there.
What vehicle systems are at risk?
So, we know it’s possible, but not likely, that cybercriminals could hack your vehicle. If they did decide to do so, what exactly would they access and how would it affect you? Here are a few of the vehicle systems that Defensive Driving.org lists as potential targets:
- Tire pressure monitoring systems – When hacked, the system could tell you incorrect information, causing you to stop or pull over when it’s not necessary.
- Brakes – Criminals could access the microprocessors that control your brakes and cause them to do something other than what you intended.
- GPS – When this system is accessed, hackers could change your vehicle’s intended destination.
- Extend the range of your key fob – Most new vehicles use wireless key fobs for vehicle entry. And, they typically only work when the person holding the fob is within a few feet of the vehicle. Malicious hackers can use a radio repeater to extend the reach of the key fob, enabling them to unlock your vehicle and access valuables inside.
How to protect your vehicle from cybercriminals
While it may be unlikely that hackers will actually access your vehicle’s systems, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take cyber security seriously. As car manufacturers continue to develop new technology, vehicles will become even more connected. As they do, additional security risks may arise or cybercriminals may have a bigger incentive to hack your vehicle. To be on the safe side, here are few things you can do to keep your vehicle, its computerized systems, and information safe:
- Keep ‘home’ out of your GPS program. Labeling where you live as ‘home’ in your vehicle’s GPS makes it that much easier for hackers to know your address. That potentially opens up other security issues, including the security of your home itself.
- Use your smartphone for in-car entertainment. Many new vehicles come equipped with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. This enables you to control your vehicle’s entertainment system with your protected smartphone, instead of relying on a freestanding infotainment system that can more easily be hacked.
- Pay attention to vehicle recalls. As manufacturers find deficiencies in their vehicles’ systems, they issue recalls to rectify the problem. Some of these recalls, like the one for the UConnect entertainment system on Jeep Grand Cherokees, have to do with improving cyber security.
- Keep your passwords safe. This tip applies to all of your passwords, but also for vehicle safety and security systems like OnStar. If hackers know the password to your account, for example, they could disable the feature that allows you to remotely shut down your vehicle when you discover it’s been stolen.
Cyber security affects us all
October is officially known as Cyber Security Awareness Month, but this is a topic that affects all of us all year long. Whether it’s keeping your vehicle safe from hackers, or protecting your home computer from cybercriminals, learning how to be cyber smart can go a long way toward keeping your personal information secure.
At Good Works Auto Repair, we care about your safety. From protecting the personal information you provide when you bring your vehicle in for service, to making suggestions for driving safety, we’ve got your back! Schedule an appointment today for quality auto repairs from people who care.