The rise of automotive hacking: How to secure your vehicles against hacking?

The automotive industry is transforming. Self-driving cars are on the road. Smartphones have turned into keys.  Auto-braking mechanisms prevent accidents.

Technology is increasingly penetrating the automobile sector. Wireless communication, information technology and Internet of Things (IoT) are making cars more modern, more comfortable and safer.

Safer? Well, yes and no. While technology improves road safety, it also makes them prone to cyber-attacks. More the number of gadgets that communicate on the network, more are the reasons for hackers to party.

What is Automotive Hacking?

A vehicle's hardware, software, and communication systems are accessed without the owner's permission through automotive hacking.

Almost every aspect of modern automobiles is controlled by computers, from vehicle controls to infotainment devices. These computers, known as Electronic control units (ECUs), communicate with one another via various communication protocols and networks.

A modern car today has upward of 100 ECUs and innumerable lines of code. Any car manufactured after 2005 is an open invitation for hackers to take entire control of it.

Perils of automotive hacking

  • The danger of automotive hacking is that it has the potential to entirely destroy a vehicle's security measures, render it inoperable, make changes to features such as the alarm system and the oil change reminder, or disrupt the air conditioning or heating system.
  • Hacking the key fob gives hackers control over the car doors and ignition. Imagine if the car suddenly comes to a stop, or the doors open and close all by themselves!
  • Hacking the car's computer system gives power over throttle and brakes. This causes the vehicle to either accelerate quickly or turn off completely.
  • Another danger is data theft. If your car has connected automotive apps, you may have given cyber attackers passwords, driving records, bank data, or credit card information.
  • Rental car firms have gained unauthorised access to users' personal information in some situations.
  • In today's vehicles, USB data ports and infotainment systems are standard amenities. They are easily exploitable to install malware or tamper with the software code, making the car vulnerable.
  • Telematics is placed in all fleet vehicles (taxis and shuttles) to monitor and gather vehicle data. The service can track the car's location, check fuel levels, oil changes, oil pressure, tyre pressure, and other vehicle parameters thanks to telematics technology. Hackers can readily exploit this system to obtain personal and vehicle information.

Preventive strategies for dealing with hacking

  • Up-to-date software
  • Check and update the vehicle's software on a regular basis, because obsolete software is easy to hack.

  • Internet access via VPN
  • Wireless gadgets are particularly vulnerable to cyber-attacks since they are often used online, making them more accessible to hackers. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is highly recommended as a substitute. VPN has proven to be an effective method of securing automobile gadgets, engines, and electronic components from external virus threats.

  • Strictly need-basis GPS
  • General Positioning Systems (GPS)  spoofing makes it simple to hack automobiles. This method interferes with the GPS location system by using radio transmission. Our suggestion is to  turn off GPS when unnecessary.

  • Install a firewall
  • As the first stage of a cyberattack, malicious code and data packets are frequently sent to a vehicle. In order to prevent hackers from attacking the internal network of the vehicle, it is recommended that the vehicle has a firewall built-in. An effective firewall will restrict V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) and V2X (vehicle-to-everything) communication to only authorised parties.

  • Password protect
  • Set up password-protected accounts to control who has access to information about your vehicle. This will help to prevent unauthorised logins.

  • Manufacturer-endorsed software only
  • When customising your vehicle, only use software that has been approved by the manufacturer. Third-party programmes can expose your vehicle to risk.
  • Combined with other security measures, these routines help detect, assess, treat, and report security issues.

Due diligence to your rescue

The advent of connected and autonomous vehicles is causing massive disruption. The promise of ease, comfort, and a host of additional benefits is increasing their desirability quotient by the day.

In the future, as driverless vehicles become more common, cybersecurity challenges and concerns will also escalate. According to Upstream, the incidence of automotive hacks increased by about 225 percent between 2018 and 2021 and remote attacks accounted for about 85% of all intrusions.

The implementation of zero-trust-based cybersecurity principles will help protect networks and gadgets from incidents of hacking and ensure quick recovery in the unfortunate event of a cyber incident.

For our part, common sense dictates that we use VPN, upgrade software/firmware frequently, conform to wireless system restrictions, and take other similar measures to keep ourselves safe.

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