It used to be that drivers only had to worry about driving safely, following the rules of the road and maintaining their vehicle, but now vehicle owners have a new issue to worry about: IT security. Automotive companies are competing for our business, and are looking for ways to set their vehicles apart from all the other options consumers have. Enter connected cars. First introduced in luxury vehicles, these cars offer features that make driving more enjoyable and convenient. These features are becoming more common in cars at all price points, meaning consumers should be aware of the security issues they introduce. Our Connected Cars infographic outlines the security risks new features in connected cars introduce and tips for vehicle owners and manufacturers for protecting these vehicles.
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Cars are becoming more like computers on wheels every day. While features like network connectivity, smart phone integration, GPS, and Bluetooth can enhance the functionality and safety of our vehicles, the affect they have on security may not be as desirable.
Connected Cars of Today
Today’s connected cars use integrated telecommunications and informatics systems called “telematics” to monitor and control vehicles. Some telematics-enabled features include:
Navigation and tracking: GPS is used to monitor a car’s location and provide navigation information
Mobile connectivity: Enables cars to connect to WiFi, 4G, and Bluetooth networks
Travel safety: Short range radio links are used to send and receive road safety, traffic, hazard, weather, and emergency
Keyless entry and ignition: Wireless signals allow drivers to unlock and even start their cars remotely
Engine diagnostics: Monitor engines and alert owners when maintenance is required
Voice control: Voice recognition software enables drivers to manage certain car functions
Companion apps: Enable drivers to control car behavior from their smart phones
Connected Cars of the Future
Today’s cars may seem pretty smart, but the connected car is nowhere near its full potential. Within the next few years connected cars will provide:
Driverless Cars: Companies like Google, Ford, BMW, and Audi are developing self-driving cars. Google reports to have autonomously driven 300,000 miles.
Vehicle Infrastructure Integration (VII): VII will enable communications between vehicles as well as with roadway infrastructure. VII utilizes software, dedicated short-range communications links, sensors, radar, and GPS to communicate with other cars, drivers, and transportation infrastructure.
Mobile updates: Drivers will be able to update their vehicles’ software on-the-go.
In Car App Stores: As smart phones become more integrated with connected cars automakers are developing in-car app stores.
Full Network Integration: will be able to serve as WiFi and 4G hot spots.
Smarter Doesn’t Mean more Secure
As cars are relying more on software they are becoming easier targets for hacking.
System hacking: Attackers hack into telematics software to control engines, lights, brakes, locks, ignition, dashboard alerts, and more.
Wireless Attacks: Bluetooth, WiFi, 4G, satellite, and other network systems can be hacked in order to compromise a vehicle or track it remotely.
Car malware: Just as our personal computers are vulnerable to malware attacks, the computers in cars can be infected with malware such as viruses, worms, bots, and more.
Vehicle immobilization: Factory- or dealership-installed immobilization systems are often susceptible to hacking and remote triggering.
Protecting Your Car
Weigh your risk: Before purchasing a car, ask about the wireless systems that are installed. Do a little background research to find out if they are at risk of attack.
Choose repair centers wisely: Make sure that the repair shops you visit are certified and reputable. Dishonest shops can steal your information, infect your car’s computer with malware, or manipulate your systems to show phony alerts for unnecessary repairs.
Ask about aftermarket parts: Confirm with your car dealer that any pre-installed aftermarket products (media players, remote shutdown systems, etc) are secure as well.
Secure your information: Protect your car’s credentials (unlock code, systems passwords, etc) just as you would your passwords for your computer, email, or other accounts.
Neil is a Marketing Technologist working on the Content and Corporate teams at Veracode. He currently focuses on Developer Awareness through strategic content creation. In his spare time you'll find him doting over his lovely wife and daughter. He is a Co-Owner of CrossFit Amoskeag in Bedford NH, his favorite topic is artificial intelligence, and his favorite food is pepperoni pizza.
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