Your vehicle’s computers are able to do a lot more than you may realize. They are constantly tracking everything from your driving speed to how often you use your seatbelt, and much more.
Your car is networked, which means that if a hacker gets access into your private data or into your computer it could become a serious threat. Unfortunately, that isn’t the only thing that consumers need to worry about. Inappropriate lawful use of your vehicle’s computer data can be a big issue. OnStar as well as other apps that are regularly used in your vehicle or links to your infotainment system often have a fine print in their agreement contracts that state that they have the right to share your information with third party companies, such as advertisers and researchers.
If your information is sold to third-party companies you could soon see targeted spam appearing in your own dash screen. You can receive coupons for a free car wash or a discount to a cappuccino at your local café. This may seem beneficial at first, but will get tiresome quickly when you realize there is no way to control the advertisement or get rid of it.
Some insurance companies offer a discount for any driver who installs a tracker into their vehicle and drives safely, unfortunately, if they drive unsafe their rates may be increased. Some lenders as well as dealerships have begun installing devices into vehicles in order to remotely stop a car if the buyer has missed their payments.
What about hackers? With all of the smart technology that has been put into cars, are our vehicles vulnerable to hackers? The answer is simple, yes. Your vehicle can certainly be hacked and if they get access into your car’s onboard diagnostics they can even steal all of your vehicle’s stored data. Black hat computer hackers have already claimed that with this new technology they can easily invade and steal your vehicle’s data without even stepping foot inside of it. This could be a threat to your privacy and if the right apps have connected to your vehicle you may even get your identity stolen. But this hacking problem is much bigger than just some stolen data. Here’s what can happen if a hacker takes control of your vehicle’s computer.
Losing Control of Your Wheels
Many of today’s vehicles have infotainment systems that also interact with your vehicle’s driving controls. For example, OnStar navigation also has an emergency assist system that will track your vehicle’s location, history, and even disable your vehicle if it gets stolen. While the thought of being able to stop a drunk driver from driving a vehicle or stopping a vehicle that has a kidnapped child as a passenger can be a great thing, there are other implications which could be catastrophic.
What if someone hacks into your vehicle with bad intentions? They might lock your breaks while you’re driving down the highway or drive you straight off of a bridge. In a recent episode of “60 Minutes,” tech professionals from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) demonstrated how a vehicle can be hacked and then remotely controlled. They were able to control the vehicle’s windshield wipers, horn, and scariest of all, the breaks.
Is That Scenario Really Realistic?
There are two different organizations that have been researching vehicle vulnerabilities and trying to come up with ways to protect consumers from having their vehicles hacked. The DARPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have been working diligently to make your vehicle and the roads safer.
During the ’60 Minutes’ hack, the tech professional needed to know what the secure phone number was used for the automobile to connect, communicate, and interact with the automaker’s network. He did not need the VIN or any additional data.
Although Dan Kaufman, who at the time was the director of DARPA, admitted that his tech professionals knew the vehicle very well, the truth is, this can happen with just about any modern vehicle.
While it may not be easy to hack a vehicle, experts expect that it will become a lot easier as more and more black hat hackers gain interest. Eventually, an intelligent 14-year old may be able to hack your vehicle directly from his laptop.
You may not be able to protect yourself from car hackers just yet, but you can become a defensive driver and protect yourself from accidents. There are traffic schools and defensive driving courses available online for those who have received a citation or simply want to be a better driver. One of the greatest benefits of taking an online driving course to become a better driver is that most insurance providers offer a safe driver discount with proof of completion.