Smart cars have a lot of good features: They are fuel efficient, easy to handle, and also environmentally friendly. They are called smart because of their technology. New technology and the internet connection of cars bring many advantages, but they also make smart cars vulnerable: Thus, they are associated with information security risks. Read in our article what kind of risks are related to smart cars and how, for example, a VPN connection helps protect them.
What kind of safety risks are associated with smart cars?
Simply put, smart cars are like big computers in traffic. Like computers, they are threatened by viruses, technological errors, and hackers. Self-driving cars with safety features such as adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, and lane assist are associated with easily identifiable risks. If anything goes wrong, the result can be a severe accident. Hackers could even completely block the car’s operation if they wanted to.
Safety experts have expressed their concerns about smart cars. When designing cars, the risk of cyberattacks has not necessarily been considered, so criminals can, for example, steal sensitive information managed by the car’s components or the entire vehicle.
Hacking a smart car does not necessarily require much effort from the hacker. If a hacker has installed a virus in the car using a memory stick or found out passwords, he can take over the car’s functions. Using an unprotected Wi-Fi connection also facilitates the work of malicious hackers. Read below about the different ways hackers can affect your car’s operation.
- Car heating or air conditioning. Hackers can make your car’s heating work in the heat – or turn on the air conditioning when it’s freezing cold.
- Car radio. If the radio turns on by itself or the channel changes while you’re driving, it’s not a strange error or an unexplained mystery but more likely the sneaky work of a hacker.
- Windshield wipers. Hackers can also take control of the windshield wipers. Wipers that start at the wrong time can lower visibility and cause dangerous situations.
- Brakes and acceleration. The driver presses the car’s brake pedal, but the operation of the brakes depends on the operation of the onboard computer’s microprocessors. It is easy to imagine what kind of dangerous situations can arise if a hacker gets access to the car’s computer and turns off the brakes. The hacker also risks forcing the car to increase the gas against the driver’s will.
- Tire pressure monitoring system. The smart car informs its user when the tire pressure is too high or low. It is practical: This way, the user knows when the car should be taken in for maintenance. However, the perpetrators of the cyber attack can affect the operation of notifications or even track the car through the system.
- GPS. For example, a hacker can affect the operation of the GPS and change the route or destination without the driver noticing.
- MP3 malware. Music files downloaded from untrusted sources may contain malware that allows hackers to access your car’s system.
- Car key coverage. In general, smart keys only open the car door when the owner of the key is very close to the car. Hackers can, however, affect the operation of the smart key so that the car doors can be opened from a longer distance, which exposes the car to theft.
- Car alarm system. Hackers can disable the alarm system, making the car easier to steal.
- Driving information. Many cars store driving data, which allows a hacker to determine the car’s movements, and thus find out, for example, the car owner’s home address or workplace location.
- A smartphone connected to the car. Hackers may gain access to your vehicle primarily because they are interested in the smartphone used to manage the car, which can be used to gain access to, for example, credit card information, passwords, or other private and valuable information.
In short, the security risks of cars are related to the following areas: Hackers can influence the car’s operation, monitor the car’s movements, and gain access to the car to steal or gain access to the user’s smartphone.
How can a smart car be protected?
The design and manufacture of smart cars play an important role in securing cars. First, we will tell you what kind of measures the experts demand from car manufacturers. After that, we will notify you of what the owner of a smart car can do to protect his car from possible hacker attacks or other information security risks.
- Designing safe cars. Car designers should consider the possible risks related to different components, systems, and networks in the early stages of planning.
- Creating secure networks. Inside the car and outside it, outgoing communications should be encrypted. A monitoring system must also be developed for the cars, which detect suspicious events that may indicate a cyber attack.
- Car protection. Car protection should be strengthened by encrypting all data, protecting various car control mechanisms and the operating system, and performing penetration tests.
However, smart car owners can also do their part to protect their cars. See below for important safety tips.
- Protect your Wi-Fi connection. Protecting your Wi-Fi connection is very important. A poorly secured or completely unsecured Wi-Fi network is like an invitation to hackers. Online VPN connection is an easy way to protect yourself: VPN directs all network traffic through an encrypted tunnel. Data cannot be monitored, and a hacker cannot gain access to your devices via a Wi-Fi connection.
- Ensure previous users no longer have access to the car’s functions. If you get your car used, it is important to ensure that the previous owner can no longer manage the car in any way.
- Always download the latest updates. The new updates contain security-related reforms and fixes for possible vulnerabilities. Outdated programs are a data security risk.
- Always be careful when downloading new apps. There are apps available for cars that offer convenient features. Some of them are developed by third parties, and there are no guarantees about their data security. Never download applications or install anything that is not recommended or approved by the car manufacturer.
- Disable unnecessary services. It’s smart to regularly go through the car’s features and remove features, apps, and services that you no longer use.
- Have the car regularly serviced by a reliable mechanic. The maintenance of smart cars also involves data security risks. So make sure that the person examining your car is a professional, competent and trustworthy person.
- Always keep the car locked. Of course, you should always keep your vehicles locked, but with a smart car, you not only keep car thieves away but also take care of data security and your privacy.
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