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Connected Cars: 4 Tips For Drivers To Stay Safe Online

With the increasing dominance of the Internet of Things (IoT), connected cars are becoming more ubiquitous than ever. We’ve long heard warnings from the media about staying safe online, but few consumers consider data hacks and other security compromises while driving a car connected to the internet.

According to the inforgraphic below from Arxan, an app protection company, 75 percent of all cars shipped globally will have internet connectivity by 2020, and current connected cars have more than 100 million lines of code. Connected features are designed to improve safety, fuel efficiency, and overall convenience. These features range from Bluetooth, WiFi, cellular network connections, keyless entry systems, to deeper “cyberphysical” features like automated braking, and parking and lane assist.

More Features Means More Vulnerability
However, with this increasing connectivity comes risks from malicious hacking. Today, connected cars have many attack points malicious hackers can exploit, including the OBD2 port used to connect third-party devices, and the software running on infotainment systems.

According to Arxan, some of the more vulnerable attack points are mobile apps that unlock vehicles and start a vehicle remotely, diagnostic devices, and insurance dongles, including the ones insurance companies give to monitor and reward safe drivers. These plug into the OBD2 port, but hackers could essentially access any embedded system in the car after lifting cryptographic keys, as the Arxan page on application protection for connected cars describes.

Vulnerabilities are usually demonstrated in conferences like Black Hat. Example: in 2010, researchers at the University of Washington and the University of California San Diego hacked a car that had a variety of wireless capabilities. The vulnerable attack points they targeted included its Bluetooth, the cellular radio, an Android app on the owner’s phone that was connected to the car’s network, and an audio file burned onto a CD in the car’s stereo. In 2013, hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek hijacked the steering and brake systems of both a Ford Escape and Toyota Prius with only their laptops.

How To Protect Yourself
According to the FBI and Department of Transportation in a public service announcement, it’s crucial that consumers following the following recommendations to best protect themselves:

  1. Keep your vehicle’s software up to date
  2. Stay aware of recalls that require manual security patches to your car’s code
  3. Avoid unauthorized changes to your car’s software
  4. Use caution when plugging insecure devices into the car’s ports and network

With the latest remote hack of a Tesla Model S, it seems that the response time between finding out about a breach and issuing a patch to correct it is thankfully getting shorter. As more automakers become tech-oriented like Tesla, they will also need to cooperate with OEMs to make sure the operating-system software in their vehicles is designed securely. It seems, this will take time, coordination with vendors, and money to bring these operations in house.

Arxan connected vehicles infographic

What do you do to protect your Internet-connected vehicle? What security tools and features would you prefer automakers and security vendors provide?

Comments

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Chanson de Roland

When are we given the option of saying no to any of this? I neither need or want my vehicle to have any radios, at least none that I can't deactivate, that communicate by the Internet, cellular network, or by any other means with anyone's computer or anyone without my knowledge and consent. So, once again, when do we get to say no to any of this?

And what are these IT systems in our vehicles for and who other than us, solely in driving and the operation of our vehicles, do these IT systems serve and benefit? As for me, as a driver, I don't need and should not have any more distraction than a little music. My iPhone handles that. As for navigation, my iPhone does that too? Communication? iPhone has also got that covered, and, as I imply, supra, I really shouldn't be communicating while I am driving, because that is a dangerous distraction. So other than what makes my driving safer, more efficient, I don't need much more than what a car consisted of in the 2000, with some enhancement for safety and enhanced function and performance of my vehicle, solely as a means of transportation, which does not provide anyone or any system with any information about me, where I am, where I am going, what is happening in the vehicle's cabin and/or who is in the cabin, how the vehicles is operating, or any other information or instructions coming to or leaving from my vehicle, other than my smartphone, than was true for my Dad's cars in the 60s.

So, once again, when do I get to say no, so that I am essentially driving, as far as information transmitted to or from my vehicle is concerned, a 1965 Ford? Perhaps automakers should just focus on trying to prevent third parties from hacking our vehicles software for monitoring, surveillance, or even seizing control of them, things which they can’t presently do reliably, before they convert our vehicles into monitoring and surveillance devices for their of their partners benefit.

As a lawyer, I suppose that I should not object, and I know that the police and prosecutors won't object, because any information about a vehicle's state and/or that is transmitted to or from it that is stored will be available to both the police and private lawyers through court process, such as subpoenas, discovery requests, and warrants. And this should be a boon for lawsuits and prosecutions of all types and kinds. And based on recent legal precedents, all of that information from our vehicles will be available. I just have to make certain, as we all should do, to regard our vehicles as one huge surveillance device for the profit and benefit of others, in addition to being a mundane device to transport us from point A to point B.

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