Hackers can take control of your car – here’s how to protect yourself

The right software can turn your smartphone into a spy device that monitors everything you do. Creepy I know. How to check if your phone is infected.

While you’re at it, check your computer. These are the signs that Stalkerware is hard at work Track your web activity, search queries, and even the passwords you type.

Shockingly, your car isn’t immune. With the right electronics and software engineering, a determined hacker can intercept or block your key fob signal, infiltrate your car’s software, and even remotely control your vehicle.

So is your Connected car hackable? Most likely yes. Here’s how.


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software hacks

Compromised car apps

Does your car have a smartphone app that lets you unlock and start it remotely? Almost every car manufacturer offers this comfort in some makes and models.

Account usernames and passwords protect these apps. If hackers can get into your account or exploit a bug in the car’s software, they could put your entire vehicle at risk.

My advice: To protect your remote start app, change the default password, Use strong and unique credentials And never Reuse your passwords from other services. Enable two-factor authentication if you can, and keep this software up to date.

Telematics exploits

Telematics is the broad term that describes a connected system that remotely monitors your vehicle’s behavior. This data may include your car’s location, speed, mileage, tire pressure, fuel consumption, brakes, engine/battery status and driver behavior.

By now you know that anything connected to the internet is vulnerable to exploitation. Hackers who intercept your connection can track and even control your vehicle remotely. That’s scary.

My advice: Before you buy a car with integrated telematics, ask your car dealer about the cybersecurity measures they use for connected vehicles. If you have a connected car, make sure the on-board software is always up to date.

Aerial view of cars in a parking lot

network attacks

Here’s a recap. Cyber ​​criminals can also use old-school denial-of-service attacks to overwhelm your vehicle and potentially disable critical features like airbags, anti-lock brakes, and door locks.

This attack is possible because some connected cars have built-in Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities. Like regular home Wi-Fi networks, they can even steal your data if they infiltrate your car’s local network.

It’s also a matter of physical safety. Remember that modern cars are controlled by multiple computers and engine control modules. If hackers can shut down these systems, they can put you in great danger.

My advice: It is a must to change the password for your car’s built-in WiFi network regularly. It’s also a good idea to turn off your car’s Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when not in use.

Your home’s Wi-Fi must also remain locked. Use these steps to find and remove anything that shouldn’t be on your network.

Onboard Diagnostics (OBD) Hacks

Every newer car has an onboard diagnostic port. Through this interface, mechanics can access your car’s data, read fault codes and statistics, and even program new keys.

Anyone can buy exploit kits that can use this port to replicate keys and program new ones to use to steal vehicles.

My advice: Always go to a reputable mechanic. A physical steering wheel lock can also give you extra security.

Ford just let this type of vehicle die out

Malware in the car

Another old-school internet hack is hitting connected cars, particularly internet-connected models with built-in web browsers.

Crooks can send you emails and messages with malicious links and attachments that can install malware on your car’s system. Once the malware is installed, anything is possible.

Car systems do not have built-in malware protection, so this can be difficult to detect.

My advice: Practice good computer security practices even when connected to your car. Never open emails and messages and never follow links from unknown sources.

Security 202: How to remove malware from your phone or computer

Key Fob Attacks

With the proliferation of cheap electronics and relay devices that can be easily bought online, key fob attacks are more prevalent than ever.

The Relay Hack

Always-on key fobs pose a serious vulnerability to your car’s security. If your keys are within reach, anyone can open the car and the system will think it’s you. For this reason, newer car models will not unlock until the key fob is in a foot area.

However, criminals can get hold of relatively cheap relay boxes that pick up key fob signals up to 300 feet away and transmit them to your car.

A thief stands near your car with a relay box, while an accomplice scans your house with another. When your fob’s signal is received, it will be transmitted to the box that is closer to your car, causing it to open.

Read on to learn how to protect your key fob.

Keyless locking

In this scenario, crooks block your signal. Suppose you issue a lock command from your key fob. It doesn’t reach your car and your doors remain unlocked. The crooks can then have free access to your vehicle.

My advice: Always manually check your car doors before you leave. You can also install a steering wheel lock to deter thieves from stealing your car even if they get inside.

How to stop keychain attacks

There are a few easy ways to block keychain attacks. You can buy a signal-blocking pouch that can hold your keys like a shielded one RFID blocking pocket.

Put in the fridge…

Apple AirTag device on keychain.

Apple AirTag device on keychain. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Here’s a free solution: put your key fob in the fridge or freezer. The multiple layers of metal block the signal. Just check with your manufacturer to make sure freezing your fob won’t damage it.

… or even in the microwave

The microwave also blocks signals. Just don’t turn it on.

Wrap your key fob in foil

Since your key fob’s signal is blocked by metal, you can also wrap it in aluminum foil. Although it’s the simplest solution, it can leak the signal if you don’t do it right. You could also make a foil-lined box to put your keys in when you’re in a crafting mood.

Keep your technical knowledge up to date

My favorite podcast is called “Kim Komando todayIt’s a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips, and tech callers like you from across the country. Look for it wherever you get your podcasts. Just click the link below to see an updated episode.

TECHNICAL ADVICE ON THE ROAD: Amazon party drug trade, scam targeting Google users and 5 signs your webcam has been hacked

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