Smart cars: can they be hacked?

Smart cars are slowly but surely taking over the industry. While there are so many reasons to be excited about innovative vehicles, these huge advances in technology come with their own set of challenges. Since smart cars are connected to networks, they can be riskier to drive than their more traditional counterparts. Apart from crazy drivers or unexpected malfunctions on the road, owners of these smart cars will also have to take into account that someone might deliberately try to take control of their car remotely. And it’s not just a hypothetical possibility.

Can Hackers Really Take Over Your Smart Car?

Although the story might sound like something out of a futuristic novel, hacking a car and taking over is something that has proven to be possible. A smart car is an IoT device. Although cars are much more complicated than other IoT devices like a smart thermostat or any other smart home gadget, they also have a lot in common. Smart cars, like any other IoT device, are connected to networks and share information with other devices. As convenient as it may seem, these networks are open to countless vulnerabilities.

The most well-known demonstration of what can go wrong with smart cars exploited the flaw in the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, where two industry experts could take control of the car by infiltrating its network and then killing the car. While safety concerns have always been part of the smart car discourse, this particular incident really shook up the industry.

The ways to take control of smart cars have only multiplied since. Hackers can now try to lock car doors remotely, they can inject malware into various car components, allowing the hacker to change the behavior of the vehicle or prevent the driver from accessing certain features. Hackers can also exploit system vulnerabilities to modify certain responses to driver commands. And it’s not just theoretical. Just recently, a 19-year-old security researcher managed to open the doors of cars over 20 Teslas remotelywhich is terrifying for anyone who owns or wants to buy a smart car.

The risks are even higher for those who use smartphones as remote controls for cars. There are countless ways to hack into someone’s phone, and if all of your IoT devices are controlled through your phone, the dangers could easily lead to serious consequences in real life, and there seems to be no no quick fix.

How to protect your smart car from attacks

While it’s undeniable that it’s important to consider these risks, smart cars aren’t going anywhere. Instead of swearing at all the innovations and practical smart cars, here’s what you can do to minimize the risk of your car being hacked.

Never skip software updates

Never skip updates. Although the industry is relatively new, it is difficult to have a silver bullet for all risks. But a surefire way to minimize the risk is to constantly update your car-connected devices and car software. Updates are there to improve the overall security of the device, and you don’t want to miss any improvements in this case. You can try signing up for manufacturer recalls or software patches to make the process easier.

Use a VPN

Use a VPN when communicating with other devices over your car’s Wi-Fi. It is crucial to know the meaning of VPN to fully understand its importance. Fundamentally, VPNs encrypt your connection, which prevents snoopers from tracing your online activity back to you. This will prevent unwanted interference and attempts to take control of your network and the car itself. A VPN will conceal your connection, improving your network security.

Disable the service you don’t use

Be deliberate about your permissions. Do not follow the default mode and go through all the features to reevaluate what you need. Disable connectivity ports you don’t use and only enable features you know you’ll use frequently. There’s no reason to have every feature enabled on your car, especially if you won’t be using them. By being careful and limiting permissions, you can save yourself a lot of unnecessary trouble.