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Auto Cybercrime: Can Your Car be Hacked?

Posted on 13th February 2023
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Auto Cybercrime: Can Your Car be Hacked?

Car theft has long been a problem in the UK and in 2022 alone there were just over 58,000 vehicles stolen, an increase of 18% on the prior year. Theft isn’t the only crime car owners have to fear though and whilst vandalism also remains high, auto cybercrime or car hacking is a particular form of incident rising in frequency.

With the first alleged crime of this type taking place back in 2005, cybercriminals have adapted their methods significantly over the past 18 years and are now posing a threat to large numbers of car owners across the globe.

Want to know more about how criminals are accessing your car from behind a screen? Read on and find out more.

What is car hacking?

Car hacking may not be a term you have heard all that often, but it is certainly one you should be aware of. It is a term, wide in scope as it can be applied to so much about your vehicle and could range from stealing data to controlling your vehicle. Perhaps the simplest definition is that a car hack is any instance where vulnerabilities are exposed and exploited in the software, hardware, and communications of a vehicle.

Thanks to in-built entertainment systems, our phones, our key fobs and other technology within the vehicle, hackers can gain access that could prove costly and damaging. With so much data being transmitted around your car, hackers can carry out a variety of acts that could see you have an accident, have personal information stolen, or have your vehicle accessed when you are not using it.

It is thought that by 2025, more than 85% of cars will be connected to a global network, giving hackers fantastic opportunities to get into your car without you ever knowing, until it is perhaps too late.

What types of car hacking are there?

With cars relying on so much technology these days, it can be a goldmine full of opportunities for hackers. They just need to choose the hack that benefits them the most to get what they want from their illegal ambitions.

A vehicle diagnostics hack

A hack not commonly committed by your typical hacker but often exploited by dodgy mechanics that try to squeeze extra cash from you for repair work that wasn’t necessary. The hacker manipulates vehicle diagnostics to show fake data that then is used against the driver as a means to have additional repairs carried out.

Hacking of smartphones and in-car entertainment systems

We all connect our phones or other devices to our cars for some level of onboard entertainment, but this can sometimes be a pathway for hackers to dive in and steal data. This could be online banking information, social media accounts, important files, or anything else they deem worthy of taking from you including home addresses, phone numbers and much more. By accessing the car computer, they can exploit vulnerabilities that will lead them to your connected devices.

Sometimes though it can be through your own negligence, so avoid downloading potentially harmful apps or browsing unsafe websites. If these apps and sites are a hacker’s gateway to your car, they could take control of your vehicle!

Wireless key hacking

Many cars no longer rely on the traditional key method to start the vehicle or unlock the doors. Sophisticated fobs help you gain access to your vehicle, but hackers are also finding a way to get in. With repeaters, they alter the range of your wireless key and therefore can unlock your car. From here, they can ransack it or drive away. An investigation over an 11-year period showed that 26% of car hacking came about through key fob interference.

Hacking the brakes and acceleration of your car

A rare but highly dangerous hack, the criminal can gain access to your braking system and cause your vehicle to either stop very suddenly or speed up very quickly. This is a hack that does not bring the hacker much reward at all but several tech experts have exploited vulnerabilities in the car systems that show this is easily achieved. The best advice to give regarding these two possibly fatal hacks is to always ensure any software and security updates are carried out as soon as possible.

Can I stop my car from being hacked?

Many of the methods chosen by hackers are carried out for the gathering of information that may lead them to cash, your vehicle or your home. Therefore, a golden rule is to treat your car like a computer. You would run an antivirus check on your laptop and run updates when necessary, so run the same type of things with your car.

  • Regularly check for system updates.
  • Make your wi-fi password protected.
  • Do not attach any USB sticks unless you are certain of where they are from and what is on them.
  • Only access the wi-fi and Bluetooth when they are needed.
  • Keep in the loop with any manufacturer news.

The good news is that whilst the hackers are smart, they are not quite as smart as the tech geniuses at the car manufacturers.  The ever-evolving tech being rolled out by giants like Tesla is helping limit such crime and, overall, as long as you follow the tips above, you should be safe from the possibility of hacking.

 

Perhaps the first step to ensuring your car is not going to be hacked is to source one from a reputable seller. At Euphoria Finance, we not only help you with finding cheap new cars on finance but our stock of used cars pass stringent tests before you take ownership of them, making them safe, roadworthy, and in as good a condition as possible. Better still, our approach to car finance as a bad credit car finance direct lender means that no matter your credit score, whether it is your first car, or whether you are a seasoned driver, you have just as much chance of being approved as anyone else. Contact us today for a free car finance quote and you could be driving away tomorrow!

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