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Hacked on Wheels: The Perils and Promises of Automotive Hacking


With the rise of connected cars and advanced vehicle technologies, automotive hacking has become an increasingly pressing concern. In recent years, security researchers have demonstrated the ability to remotely manipulate a car’s systems, from controlling its brakes and steering to unlocking its doors and stealing personal data. The potential dangers posed by automotive hacking are significant, ranging from theft and privacy violations to physical harm and even death. As vehicles become more connected and automated, the need for robust cybersecurity measures in the automotive industry is more critical than ever. In this article, we’ll explore the current state of automotive hacking and examine the challenges and opportunities for improving the security of connected cars.

Car hacking can be a favorite hobby for hackers in the modern world. Most cars come equipped with operating systems, connections, and CPUs. Now more than ever, they are electronic. According to research by the consulting company McKinsey, a typical car today contains about 150 electronic control units and approximately 100 million lines of code.

Integrating all of these next-generation services, including electrification, traffic assistance, and networking services, requires both hardware and software. This just got going. By 2030, it is predicted that a commercial vehicle would have 300 million lines of software on board. With their potential to increase a vehicle’s security, automotive security researchers will play a significant part in the revolution of the automotive sector.

Automotive hacking: different methods hackers use for vehicle hacking

In recent years, the automotive industry has undergone a significant technological transformation. Modern cars are equipped with a host of advanced features, from built-in infotainment systems and Wi-Fi hotspots to driver assistance technologies and even self-driving capabilities. However, as vehicles become more connected, they also become more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Hackers can exploit vulnerabilities in a car’s systems by using different methods for automotive hacking. Here, we’ll explore the different methods hackers use for car hacking and discuss the implications for automotive cybersecurity.

1. Forced acceleration

A hacker can operate the accelerator, the brakes, and other driving operations by remotely accessing the car’s computer system. This pushes the vehicle to either accelerate quickly or stop altogether.

2. Mobile access

Hackers might be able to access any devices you’ve synchronized with your car if it’s connected to the internet. Your bank information, credit card information, driving records, and passwords are just a few examples of information that could be compromised in a cyber assault.

Connected car apps are another possible entry point for hackers attempting to steal personal data. Rental car companies have occasionally accessed customers’ sensitive information without authorization. Such a leak has the potential to become a severe problem very rapidly.

3. Via your USB port

Vehicles are notorious targets for cyberattacks, especially when connected to other vehicles and equipped with USB data ports. Numerous studies have demonstrated that modern vehicles’ infotainment systems and other inputs, especially those with USB connections, are vulnerable to hacking. Hackers frequently use social engineering strategies to access a car’s system via a USB device.

Once inside, hackers can install malware and take advantage of the car and its resources. This includes breaking into the driver’s phone and obtaining private data. This may include texts, photos, and bank login pins.

If hackers can access your car through its USB ports, they can mess with the coding, making driving uncomfortable or dangerous. In contrast to a standard data cable, a USB anti-data hacking charging adaptor is advised.

3. Automotive hacking: Extended key fob range

A hacker can make the car open or close on its own by gaining access to the key fob for the vehicle. A hacker can also make the ignition turn off by leaving the car running while the key fob is outside.

4. Telematics in automotive hacking

A new technique for keeping an eye on and gathering data about vehicles is the secure telematics system. This technology is frequently put in place in fleet vehicles, such as those that a taxi or shuttle service bus. The telematics system enables the service to monitor specific data. This includes fuel levels, oil changes, oil pressure, tire pressure, and other vehicle parameters, as well as track the location of the vehicle. Automotive hackers can readily access sensitive information kept on the internal computer of the car by manipulating this system.

Different incidents about automotive hacking

Although automobile hacking skyrocketed in 2016 still it goes way back. This started back in 2005. The hacking then was done via the Bluetooth system of the car. The hackers would use a special directional antenna to increase the range of Bluetooth connections. This would allow them to eavesdrop on the conversations of the passing cars. Following are some of the famous examples for automotive hacking:

Examples of automotive hacking from the past

  • In 2007, the Inverse Path attacked the radio-based traffic feed. The incident effectively blocked European roads, turning traffic away from a certain highway.
  • In 2015, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, renowned hackers attacked Andy Greenberg’s Jeep Cherokee. The car’s vents were on the full setting blowing cold air. The radio, plays Skee-lo, at the maximum volume. Turning the windshield wipers on. And the interesting thing was that they were ten miles away. Uconnect played the part to hack the vehicle. Uconnect was the Internet-connected entertainment device in the vehicle.
  • Also, in 2015, Kevin Mahaffey and Marc Rogers hacked into the system of Tesla. They explained that the Tesla cars have a cable. This cable is used for the maintenance people to access. The cable is hidden inside a secret panel under the touch screen or to the left of the driving seat. They found the panel and plugged in the cable. They could not get the access immediately. However, they were able to find some bugs and breached through. They informed Tesla immediately about these bugs. But before the news broke out the company was able to resolve these bugs. Tesla gets a software update every three months or so.
  • In 2018, Hyundai contained a Blue Link App which was a vulnerability to hackers. The application allowed the customer to remotely lock, and unlock the car door. It also allowed the customers to start and stop the air conditioning and the car itself. The hackers could be able to remotely operate the car. The hacking could be easily done via insecure Wi-Fi.
  • In 2020, white hackers found a serious flaw in Ford and Volkswagen. The internet-connected media contains bugs. And it can lead to the exposure of important personal information. Hackers also found out that with a laptop and a gadget from amazon Ford’s tire pressure monitoring system could be breached.

How to prevent automotive hacking/ car hacking?

Nowadays, the security of your car is more important than it was ever before. Currently, there are a lot of ways someone can breach vehicle systems. Not only breach but can also hide it. This is why cybersecurity is so important. Here are some of the ways that can help you avoid hacking of your car:

  • Threat detection: Through threat detection, you can be notified of any kind of suspicious activity.  Threat detection software should provide both brute-force and breached password detection. This software alerts you if any malicious activities are happening. It also blocks unauthorized access. Which helps in preventing a data breach.
  • More secure logins: Most vehicles nowadays have a wide number of functions for remote control. These remote access points, if weak, create dangerous vulnerabilities. Making it essential for securing each one of them. This includes key fob radiofrequency encryption. More significantly, it implies securing and simplifying log-ins to critical server access along with mobile apps. This also helps with breaches through iTrack and ProTrack.
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA): These features will help to secure access. These can also help block hackers that are looking for a way to squeeze in. Multi-factor authentication requires another credential apart from the username and password. The other credential may be a thumbprint, voice snippet, or mobile device. This process is rather reliable as it identifies users with more accuracy.
  • Secure APIs: Different propriety software systems interact or communicate through APIs. Via third-party tools, automotive systems reveal APIs for remote access. Although securing these entry points is important. Modern authntication features can do this. This ensures that their protection from malicious hackers.

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