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Fear of connected cars cyber vulnerabilities growing

Fear of connected cars cyber vulnerabilities growing

When you think of cyber attacks, you think of breaches of credit cards, banking accounts, and businesses.  But did you think about a cyber attack on your car?  That’s right – a cyber attack.

A recent survey conducted by Hartford Steam Boiler showed that nearly 40% of US motorists are somewhat or very concerned about cybersecurity and safety of connected and autonomous vehicles.  Additionally, 35% said they feared a virus, hacking incident or other cyberattacks could damage or destroy a vehicle’s data, software or operating systems.

11% respondents drove electric vehicles. Of those drivers, half said they worried charging stations could be a point-of-entry for a cyberattack.

These worries aren’t unfounded, according to the HSB poll, as one in 10 consumers reported a hacking incident or other cyberattack affecting their vehicle, an increase of 3% compared with the year prior. As the number of connected cars grows, so do concerns that vehicles could eventually be controlled remotely by nefarious actors.

“Our cars are more connected than ever,” Timothy Zeilman, vice president for HSB, said in a release. “It’s hard for consumers to keep up with rapidly evolving vehicle technology, and they wonder if their privacy and personal information are protected.”

Communications from hackers top concerns

Nearly half of survey respondents said the biggest worry stemming from a vehicle cyberattack is having a hacker communicate with them over the audio system in an attempt to coerce them or demand ransom.

Other top concerns were the vehicle being immobilized, safety systems being compromised and being locked out, according to HSB.

Further, half of the survey respondents said they sync their smartphones to a vehicle, while 36% said they have an app dedicated for just this purpose. On top of this, nearly a quarter said they had Wi-Fi or a mobile hotspot to provide internet access on the road.

So how do you protect yourself, take a look at these must-know tips:

The Good News

Although it’s scary to consider your car suddenly being taken control of while you’re still behind the wheel, you aren’t completely hopeless.

The FBI issued a public service announcement in 2016 that warned drivers about the dangers of car hacking and told them to always keep their vehicle software up to date and be vigilant about any recall notifications from manufacturers.

You can search for recalls via the NHTSA, and even narrow down your search to specific safety issues based off your car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on their site.

Car hacking might be easier than expected, but thankfully some basic knowledge can help you reduce your likelihood of being affected.

**10 Ways to Up Your Vehicle’s Cybersecurity Today**

#1 – Keep Your Software Updated

We’ve all delayed a PC or phone update by weeks or even months, but when it comes to cybersecurity, you’ll want to keep your car’s software current at all times.

Manufactures make improvements to vulnerabilities and bugs in their systems with updates, which will keep you safer on the road and make it more difficult for hackers to gain remote access.

#2 – Be Cautious of Third-Party Devices

By purchasing a device that plugs into your car, you’re potentially creating a doorway for hackers. Modern vehicles are all equipped with OBD-II, a diagnostics port that technicians use when testing systems.

Many new third-party devices also plug directly into this port, which could leave access to your car’s software and your driver data wide open.

Make sure that you thoroughly investigate any electronic devices before you buy them. Only purchase from reputable companies, and avoid anything that’s secondhand or sold by a private owner such as on eBay, Craigslist, or the Facebook Marketplace.

#3 – Only Let People You Trust Use Your Vehicle

Discretion is important when it comes to sharing your car. While you may be a Good Samaritan and offer someone a ride, it’s important to use caution when lending your vehicle to another person. Only let those you trust borrow your car and plug devices into your vehicle.

#4 – Stop Using Your Keys Remotely

One of the easiest ways to prevent people from hacking into your car’s push-to-lock system is by forgoing your keyless system and using your central lock button or physical keys to open and lock your car’s doors.

#5 – Place Your Fob in the Fridge

It sounds weird, but there’s science at work behind this practice. Being surrounded by the metal will prevent hackers and thieves from being able to detect signals from your key fobs.

You can also firewall your fob by placing your keys in a metal box or inexpensive signal blocking bag (called a Faraday shield) specially designed to prevent hacking.

#6 – Use Aluminum Foil

Similar to the fridge technique, wrapping your key fob in foil when you’re not using them can decrease visibility to any hackers looking for a ping.

#7 – Turn off WiFi and BlueTooth

When you aren’t behind the wheel, make sure you shut down all wireless communications and network connectivity. These are easily accessible, common avenues hackers use to detect signals.

#8 – Use Anti-Virus Software to Scan USB Devices Before Use

Your phone can benefit from virus protect just like your computer, and now, so can your car. Use a free anti-virus protection software like AVG to scan any new USB devices before you connect them to your vehicle.

AVG also suggests keeping your car’s WiFi password hidden, i.e. not written anywhere stored in the vehicle.

You could save it as a note on your phone, for example, or leave a password hint in your car that only you know rather than just the password outright.

#9 – Investigate “Save as You Drive” Programs

Many insurance companies offer discount programs to customers that reward them for good driving. In order to qualify, drivers have to plug a monitoring device (called a dongle) into their ODB-II ports.

A professional hacker warned drivers in a 2015 Forbes** article that devices like Progressive’s Snapshot dongle have “basically no security technologies whatsoever.”

Although some changes have inevitably been made, there are many companies that most likely haven’t updated their dongles and leave drivers like you vulnerable when you’re just trying to save some money.

#10 – Invest in Some Defense Gear

A traditional steering-wheel lock can act as a deterrent to hackers who want to steal your car. You could also consider a tire lock, kill switch, and similar anti-theft devices.

Sources: Hartford Steam Boiler and Car Insurance Comparison