Vehicle safety: From carjacking to car hacking

By Sarah Archer

car infotainment system
Image credit: Depositphotos

With the rise of keyless-entry cars and modern technology, car hacking is still prevalent in the auto industry. People attempting to steal cars are now not just limited to physically being outside in order to gain access, but instead can do it from inside their own houses as well.  Through the manipulation of codes, taking control of cars from a distance, and other cyber-savvy tactics, being in-the-know is important for your safety. Here are the novel ways that car hackers are succeeding to steal your vehicle and how to keep from getting your car invaded.

Carjacking wireless key fobs

Locking your car door isn’t a thorough way to protect your car from being stolen anymore with the keyless cars. Several newer cars are made with the addition of wireless key fobs. While this is definitely a practical option, it might lead to an easier entry into your car. If your keys are towards the front of your house, chances are they are not far away enough from your car. With a radio attack device, the magnetic amplification of the device can signal your car to unlock. The inexpensive device can be retaliated by placing your keyless remote in a faraday bag that doesn’t allow the entry of radio signals.

An attacker hacks a key fob to break into a car

Hacking digital cars

Smart and digital cars aren’t entirely safe from being hijacked. Three main ways that hackers can control your car’s computer system is by car apps, USB drives, and WiFi networks. With car’s smartphone apps, the hacker can send a request to a cloud service that is connected to your car. This leads to them possibly being able to have access to your car’s system. With USB drives, people typically place them inside the car in order to listen to music and other purposes have a code that an attacker could have placed before you purchased the USB drive. Make sure to purchase an unopened USB cord, and keep it safe when taking it out of your car. When it comes to someone’s WiFi network, be sure to have a secured network with a difficult password so that no one has access to your computer-based car.

Hackers can compromise your cars infotainment system

Cars that are driving slower than 12 MPH have the risk of having their engines abruptly turning off while on the road. People with iTrack or ProTrack accounts sometimes use generated passwords that a hacker named L&M guessed correctly. Over 27,000 accounts got broken into due to his guessing game and turned off the cars that were driving slowly. While smart cars are a great advancement in technology, the options for getting access to people’s cars are advancing as well.

Hackers can shut down your car remotely

With the code that L&M cracked, another benefit he received was he was able to track people where they were driving. He could visually see what roads, streets, and addresses people were driving on. This theoretically means that he could cause various accidents by turning off the engines when unsafe to do so through tracking.

Ways to prevent your car from being hacked

There are a few ways to prevent your car from being hijacked or hacked. Here are four tips for keeping you and your vehicle safe:

  1. Update the software on your car to stay up-to-date
  2. Don’t keep your WiFi or Bluetooth on when you aren’t using it
  3. Create a strong, difficult-to-guess password on your WiFi and all other software and devices linked to your car.
  4. Regularly go to your manufacturer to check up on recalls just in case there is a mistake in the car’s computer system.

Keep track of your diagnostics system

With slightly newer cars, the OBD-II or diagnostic system allows mechanics to be able to read potential problems a car might have. This also allows them to gain control of the specific car’s engine, which means that if a hacker was able to get access to the system, they would be able to access that as well. If a hacker has access to channel into your system, this is another way that they would be able to take control of your car. Make sure to install an OBD lock to protect the system.

From car hacking to carjacking, the options to break into one’s vehicle has expanded. Practicing car safety has shifted from protecting your keys to protecting your passwords. Keeping track of your software and ensuring that you are taking the safe route will lead to a protected car. Hackers like L&M are more common than they may seem, and having knowledge of their ability will prevent them from putting car owners at risk. If you want an elaborate visual on how to protect your car and ways that your car could be hacked into, the infographic explains this below.

Infographic: How to avoid car hacking
Image credit: The Simple Dollar

Sarah ArcherAbout the author: Sarah Archer is a results-driven marketing manager with expertise in leading content strategy,  SEO and PR across diverse industries ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies.

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