Can Your Car Be Hacked? Absolutely!
The mainstream media isn’t giving you the whole story about high-tech cars.
They tell you how high-tech cars are safer to drive. How they are better for the environment. How they make your life easier with this or that new gadget.
What they aren’t telling you about is the security. That’s because the security in high-tech cars is terrible.
And that means these cars can be hacked.
One expert has described the security on existing car computers as “…virtually non-existent, it is at a level of protection that a desktop computer system had in the 1980s…”
Self-Driving Cars Whittle Away Your Self-Reliance
The trend in the auto industry is to make cars more autonomous. Current cars have a number of “self-driving” features. Cars are becoming integrated into wireless networks, as well.
Cars on the roads these days have a range of self-driving features. Some cars can apply the brakes for you if your proximity to another car is too close. Other cars communicate with stoplights and will automatically slow you down if you’re approaching a red light too fast. And versions of self-driving cars are coming that will do most of the actual driving for you.
Every new car on the market today comes with computer technology that acts as the center of operations. The computer is usually located beneath the steering wheel. Anyone with a little know-how and the right equipment can access your car through it. They can use the computer to assess the health of the car—that’s good for maintenance. But they can also use it to control the car—very bad for security.
This technology can even be accessed remotely. All it takes is a bit of fairly simple, easy-to-get equipment. That means that hackers don’t even have to break into your car to take control of it.
A group of researchers did an assessment of the “hack-ability” of vehicles already on the road. They found that several models are already vulnerable to this kind of remote attack.
The researchers looked at three things. First, how many features a car possessed that could give hackers a foothold. Things like Bluetooth, cellular network connections, and keyless entry systems. Then they looked at the car’s underlying network architecture. That helped them determine how easy it would be for hackers to use an initial foothold to access other systems like brakes and steering. Finally, they checked out automated features like brake assist. These are features that hackers could use to fool the car into going out of control.
Based on their findings the three easiest-to-hack cars are the 2014 InfinitiQ50, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, and the 2015 Cadillac Escalade. The 2014 Toyota Prius was a little better, but not much.
The Potential for Abuse is Off the Charts
The technology curve for cars is on an accelerated path. With nearly every advancement, vehicles on the road become more vulnerable remote attacks.
Eventually car companies will improve security. They’ll make it harder for the average hacker to break into your car. But even when that happens, you can bet back doors will be built in that give law enforcement a way to control your car remotely.
I’ve long been an advocate of keeping at least one older vehicle. An older model, non-computerized car can give you peace of mind in several ways:
- If you know your way around an engine, you can work on it with good old-fashioned tools.
- It won’t be vulnerable to as much damage in the event of an electromagnetic pulse. Most cars — even those built recently — will continue to run after an EMP.But the older the car, the less it will be affected by such an event. And with future cars — those that are wirelessly connected to other vehicles on the road and to surrounding infrastructure — it’s likely that their EMP vulnerability will be very high.
- It won’t be at risk of being hacked by thieves, thugs, or government bureaucrats.
If you don’t want to purchase a car that’s a few decades old, focus on buying a car that doesn’t have a lot of computerized bells and whistles. According the “hack-ability” study, a 2006 Ford Fusion is pretty hack-proof. So is a 2006 Range Rover. You do have more modern options when it comes to keeping cyber invaders out of your car. But those options are going to become fewer and farther between.
Just remember, reliable transportation can be critical during any emergency, so take that under advisement when you make your next car purchase.
P.S. If you’re forced to evacuate your home, you car isn’t only one thing you need to worry about. You also must be certain you have everything you need to survive and keep your family safe. And you may need to gather it all together in five minutes or less!
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