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As technology continues to make the world more and more connected, you should expect the same for cars. Modern cars being rolled out feature WIFI, Bluetooth, and other smart forms of connectivity. Smart vehicles are technologically advanced and savvy with computerized devices connected to their entertainment and navigation systems. However, despite these technologies bringing convenience to the vehicles, they present significant security issues. 

As the smart car markets rave-up due to increased demand, customers should be aware of the security risks associated with these cars. They present the most significant cybersecurity and privacy concerns. 

Smart Car Cybersecurity Threats 

Cybersecurity experts explored several smart car security threats, and the following had interesting results. 

  • Possible Smart Car Control Hacks 

Smart cars with integrated software, especially those that connect to the internet or mobile applications, present the same vulnerabilities as mobile phones and computers. A key area of smart car vulnerability is the code or protocol vulnerability. 

A common selling feature for smart cars is the technologically advanced infotainment systems. These systems connect to the drivers or passengers’ smartphones through codes, such as the MirrorLink Protocol, to enable car users to play their music of choice. MirrorLink protocol uses connectivity mechanisms similar to those used by remote desktop sharing applications. 

Unfortunately, a recent study by security research experts demonstrated a plethora of critical security flaws in these applications. As such, hackers can exploit such vulnerabilities and override key safety features of smart vehicles. Demonstrated infotainment system hacks were demonstrated on Mazda, Volkswagen, and Audi connected cars. The team used the vehicle’s WIFI to exploit and hijack the infotainment system. 

  • Smart Cars Alarm Hack 

Nearly all modern vehicles rely on alarm systems for their safety. However, hackers can exploit these alarm systems to the owners’ disadvantage. PenTestPartners, security experts who perform penetration testing on products to uncover vulnerabilities, identified serious loopholes in smart car alarm systems. 

They identified critical vulnerabilities in two of the most common smart alarm systems that affect more than 3 million vehicles. The vulnerabilities included possible unlocking of the car, privacy violations that expose the car owners’ personal data, and more. 

  • Insecure Smart Cars Applications 

As mentioned, smartphone applications present a potential weak point for smart vehicles. Several car mobile applications have demonstrated serious security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by interested car hackers. While there is little or minimal code obfuscation for door locking and unlocking or username and password encryption, there are other serious concerns associated with these car mobile apps. 

Probably the most serious concern is the presence of mobile Trojans that can be used to compromise smart cars. Note that these risks are not limited to cars alone. Electric scooters, for instance, which connect via Bluetooth to smartphone applications, allow control to various functions, including switching the anti-theft systems on/off. Remote hackers within a 100m distance can send commands to the scooter through the app without necessarily requiring any password. 

  • GPS Tracking 

Standard GPS trackers installed in smart vehicles are connected to the internet to transmit data on the vehicle’s movements. Whereas they are excellent in tracking cars, especially rental cars, couriers, and other hired-out equipment, they present a serious security threat. 

Infiltrating the administrators’ account of the GPS tracker, for instance, provides limitless information including the routes, contacts, names, financial information, and more about the user. Due to the absence of two-factor authentication, hacking the user account gives access to the client’s data. Cybercriminals can hack such systems for surveillance and data harvesting. 

Protecting Your Smart Car 

Even as people prefer purchasing and using smart cars, they care about their privacy. The advancing technologies installed on smart cars inevitably present serious vulnerabilities. They provide an expanded attack surface that cybercriminals can leverage. Since purchasing old vehicles without an internet connection is not a better option, car owners ought to be alert on the various dangers these technologies present and their car’s capabilities. As such, consider the following to protect your smart vehicle. 

  • Regularly Patch and Update Software 

Just like smartphones and computer devices, you should ensure that you regularly patch and update your smart car’s firmware. You should as well ensure that smartphones and other devices associated with your car’s smart applications are up to date. Sign up to manufacturer’s updates or check for regular updates online. 

  • Deactivate connectivity services 

For convenience reasons, the majority of car owners leave their smartphone applications always connected with their smart vehicles. However, this isn’t advisable, as it presents a chance that cybercriminals can exploit. As such, always deactivate connectivity, such as Bluetooth, when not in use. 

  • Secure your connection 

Similar to smart devices, you should ensure that your WIFI is secure. Probably the best way of achieving this is ensuring that you download a VPN on your mobile device that connects to your smart car system. Securing the connection also involves changing any default login details and passwords. Also, don’t leave any written passwords and login details of your smart car in the car. 

  • Find a good mechanic 

Uploading a malware into the smart car remotely is quite difficult. However, it becomes easier if there is an insider. As such, ensure that you find a good and trustable mechanic to service your smart vehicle. Otherwise, malicious mechanics will leverage the servicing period to install malware into the vehicle’s systems for later attacks. 

Bottom Line 

Taking the necessary security measures is crucial if you want to drive your smart car without cybersecurity risks. From the manufacturing process, smart cars are based on the “security by design” principle. Manufacturers work to ensure that all the frameworks during manufacture provide for an excellent built-in smart security. One best way is by observing the ENISA smart car guidelines. These guidelines outline the best ways manufacturers can design smart cars free from Cybersecurity threats. 

However, since hackers are unavoidable, smart car owners should ensure that their vehicles are hack-proof. Identifying the possible set of security threats and taking the necessary measures outlined above is beneficial.


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