5 Ways to Safeguard Your Car From Hackers

Did you know that, just like your phone or computer, your car can be hacked? Your car contains up to 100 electronic control units (ECUs) that may control anything from dashboard functions to windshield wipers to the engine and brakes. And with the right vulnerabilities, hackers can remotely compromise your vehicle’s cybersecurity, expose your data, and even control your car.

Thankfully, car companies have made recent strides to address the issue of vehicle cybersecurity. Following a famous Jeep hack in 2015, Chrysler issued a massive recall to address the security issue. And since then, General Motors and Tesla have adopted programs that reward white-hat hackers for finding security vulnerabilities before they become major issues.

However, if you want to ensure maximum security for your car, there are a few safety measures you can take, too. Below are four ways your car can be hacked and how to prevent them:

Keyless entry remotes

Do you drive a push-to-start car or one featuring keyless entry? Thieves can use a device that wirelessly amplifies the signal from your key fob to trick your car into thinking it’s nearby, thereby unlocking it. They can then get in your car, start it, and drive away.

To safeguard your key fob, store it in a radiofrequency-shielding bag to block the signal from being intercepted. While this may sound strange, they’re fairly common, and can be as cheap as $10 at most major retailers.

If you want to take an extra security step here, consider installing a steering lock mechanism. If they can’t steer it, they can’t steal it. This helps protect against car hackers and traditional car thieves alike.

Entertainment systems

If your car is equipped with an entertainment system that can connect to the internet, it introduces another vulnerability. Things can get particularly tricky if your car has its own hotspot. In this instance, anyone who knows the IP address can gain access to the entertainment system and use it as a backdoor to the car’s computer systems.

To stay on top of security, be on the lookout for software updates from your auto manufacturer. Tesla, Ford, and General Motors are some car companies that offer over-the-air (OTA) updates, which are installed via your entertainment system. It’s as easy as updating the operating system on your smartphone.


Third-party apps

Car-linked smartphone apps offer another way for hackers to gain access to your car. They send a request to a cloud server that is then forwarded to your car via cellular link. A hacker can compromise the app if it’s not properly secured and can send new signals to your car. Hackers can also encourage you to download malicious apps that can compromise the safety of your car-linked app.

To stay safe, make sure you only download apps with two-factor authentication and beware of phishing attempts.

On-board diagnostics system

The onboarding diagnostics system, or OBD-II, monitors car activity similarly to a black box. OBD-II plugins, or dongles, send this data to your phone via bluetooth. Hackers intercept it en route. Quick prevention tip is to purchase an OBD-II lock to keep your system secure.

Want to learn more about how your car can be hacked and what to do if you suspect a hack? Check out the animated infographic below for more real-life examples.

The Technology Behind Car Hacking. In a world of increasing connectivity, it's important to keep your ride secure. Yeah, car hacking is a thing – and here's what you can do about it. Keyless entry remotes - Hackers trick the car into thinking the key fob is close by amplifying its signal with relay boxes. This allows them to then unlock the car and push to start without ever having the keys. QUICK PREVENTION TIP: Store your keys in a radiofrequency-blocking bag overnight. Entertainment systems - If a car has a wi-fi hotspot, all you need is the IP address to compromise the system. From there, hackers can move laterally to the car various other computers. QUICK PREVENTION TIP: Update your software system as frequently as possible. Third-party apps - Car-linked apps can be compromised via the cloud service they use
to communicate with the car. Phishing attempts cause owners to unknowingly download malicious apps that hack their car-linked app. QUICK PREVENTION TIP: Only use apps with double-factor authentication. On-board diagnostics system - The onboarding diagnostics system, or OBD-II, monitors car activity similarly to a black box. OBD-II plugins, or dongles, send this data to your phone via bluetooth. Hackers intercept it en route. QUICK PREVENTION TIP: Purchase an OBD-II lock to keep your system secure. USB ports - A hacked phone that is plugged into your car USB port can compromise your car systems. USB software updates that are sent via mail can be easily compromised and corrupted. QUICK PREVENTION TIP: Scan the USB drive for malicious software before plugging it in. Suspect a car hack? Here's what to do. Check for vehicle recalls or software updates. Contact your auto manufacturer or authorized dealer. Contact the NHTSA to file a vehicle safety complaint. Contact the FBI and file a complaint with IC3. Sources available at: www.esurance.com/insights/technology-behind-car-hacking
The Technology Behind Car Hacking | Quick Prevention Tips

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