Is Your Car at Risk of a Cyber Attack?

Is Your Car at Risk of a Cyber Attack?
The world of mobile technology, and the sheer number of things that can now be connected to the internet, is advancing at rocket speed.

From using Bluetooth to control your lights and thermostat, to taking credit card payments with a phone dongle, connectivity has become a part of our everyday lives. It’s getting to the point where we can hardly imagine a life without the conveniences of a connected world. But that convenience comes at a cost, and new mobile technology can be vulnerable to attacks — partly because of the pace of innovation, and partly because we don’t often think about security on mobile devices.

Cars Are Going Digital Too

Car manufacturers are innovating and pushing the technological boundaries of their vehicles. They’re doing it to create a higher standard of safety and consumer trust, but also to leverage convenience and a swanky modern lifestyle in their marketing.

Making car components more complex has the advantage of precision and safety, providing the driver with better information about their vehicle’s condition. But the more complex a system gets, the more vulnerable it becomes. Adapting in-vehicle parts and systems to digital from analog has made cars more user-friendly, but enabling people to control those systems using wireless connections is making security and privacy a grave concern.

Gone are the days when the only outside signals a car received were through a radio antenna. Now they send and receive information, interacting with Bluetooth, cloud, and satellite services.

What Are the Risks?

Hacking cars isn’t something we think about much. And until recently, it wasn’t something manufacturers thought about. Cars with digital components and connectivity would get pushed off the production line with little more than a firewall for security.

When the landscape of an industry changes, there are always growing pains. Serious vulnerabilities have resulted in recalls and lawsuits. Leveraging cellular connectivity and always-on services to hack into vehicles can have scary implications. In some cases, wireless hackers could cut a car’s transmission.

What Can We Do?

Unfortunately, many of the security solutions that cars need will have to be embraced by manufacturers. But there are steps you can take to protect your privacy and safety if you have a car with wireless connectivity.

Limit points of entry for hackers. Make sure your phone security is up to date, run spyware and virus checkers on it and any other devices that interact with your car. Make sure you know what types of connections your car allows, and consider turning functions that you aren’t using off.

In the meantime, make a company’s response to vulnerabilities part of your planning for your next car purchase. Are they proactively working to encourage research and fix problems, or are they filing lawsuits against researchers to keep their brand image?

A little extra vigilance in your everyday activities and your purchasing choices can help protect your identity and keep you safe on the road. Mobile technology such as telematics devices continues to permeate the auto industry, and hackers are much quicker to adapt than industries are. So we need to keep our eyes open.

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