Automotive wearables and cars are all relatively new technologies that have quickly become the new tech craze. Everything from the devices in your pocket to the appliances you use to the car you drive can transmit data about your lifestyle habits because they all have one thing in common: they are connected to the Internet and you are connected to them. In some cases, they are related to one another. The Internet of Things is the name given to this technological phenomenon (IoT).

What is car hacking?

The manipulation of code in a vehicle’s electronic control unit (ECU) to exploit vulnerabilities and gain control over other ECUs in the vehicle is known as vehicle hacking. The car hacking demonstration targets various car makes and models, taking control of various systems such as the entertainment center, speedometer, fuel gauge, brakes, steering, airbags, and accelerometers.

The vehicle’s ability to connect to the Internet is the most serious security flaw because anyone with its IP address can access its computer systems. However, unlike a car breach, you’re not only concerned with the breach of personal data, but also with the impact on the car. At the same time, driving puts your immediate personal safety at risk. In terms of privacy, used, rented, or crash/marked vehicles’ onboard computers may contain sensitive residual data from previous drivers, such as contact and calendar data, unencrypted video, and so on.

The absence of a single “gatekeeper” is a significant vulnerability issue for modern automobiles. Furthermore, the patchwork of different technologies bundled together means that not only is there no single oversight of the technology, but the protocols are set without security measures. Because they should be able to communicate easily with one another. Furthermore, we see the same vulnerabilities in your phones and computers.

The difference is that the bad guys have access to electronic control units (ECUs), which work together to access and control the car’s subsystems such as braking and navigation.

What can car hackers do?

Hackers can gain access to vehicle information, which can be used to affect the vehicle, such as the alarm system inside the vehicle. It can, however, access personal information such as a person’s home address or phone IP address.

Unfortunately for the victims, hackers have a plethora of access control points at their disposal, including apps, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Case studies have revealed that little or no code is required to prevent electronic door unlocking, that username and password credentials are not encrypted, and that mobile trojans can be embedded to hack applications.

Hackers can use this easy access to install infected applications, malware, or malicious code inside the car’s system. Wireless remotes used in many vehicles to lock/unlock and start the ignition are convenient, but they are vulnerable to attack.

How does the remote control work?

The remote control operates by sending a wireless signal at a specific frequency that the car receiver interprets as commands. These signals can be intercepted using commercially available tools and used by attackers to gain unauthorized access or even steal vehicles. Traditional replay attacks gain access by recording wireless signals from remote controls and then spoofing the signals.

The major process by which hackers successfully do hacking is the modulation process. Most vehicle and remote control frequencies are modulated, so they are not always the same, making this type of attack less likely, but there are more advanced ways to avoid the modulation. A rolling jam attack is a technique in which an attacker intercepts and records a remote control signal while preventing it from reaching the vehicle.

Typically, the owner attempts to unlock the vehicle again, allowing the attacker to lock onto the next frequency in the modulation sequence. A potential source of greater concern is a vulnerability resulting from the vehicle’s lack of security, which is the user’s phone, which is typically connected to the vehicle via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. A user can provide backdoor access to personal and/or financial information if proper security protocols are not followed on the phone.

How do cybercriminals gain access to your car systems?

Here are a few methods cybercriminals can use to gain access to car systems and make driving dangerous for you. The most common type of car hacking is a keychain attack.

Keychain attack

Most vehicles now have remote keyless entry systems that allow you to lock or unlock the vehicle, start the engine, and operate the windows and alarm system. Within a range of 5-20 meters, the remote control communicates with the vehicle. It sends encrypted radio frequency signals, which the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) decodes and compares to stored data to ensure successful authentication.

Cloning process

Cybercriminals can clone an encrypted radio signal and use a fake key to open a car. DoS attacks are used to disable remote control and examine data sequences. Cloning broadcast frequencies with Software Defined Radio (SDR) devices.

Remote Code Execution Exploitation (RCE)

Remote Code Execution Exploitation (RCE) is a type of cyber attack in which an attacker executes arbitrary commands from a remote server to gain access to a vehicle.

Hackers may gain access to the devices you have connected to your connected car by attacking them. Any data you upload to your system, including passwords, help templates, financial data, and credit card information, is vulnerable to hacking.

Hackers can also use connected car apps to obtain personal information about the owner of the vehicle. Several incidents have occurred in which car rental companies have been granted unrestricted access to the personal information of their customers (PII). This type of loss can pose a significant security risk.

Attacking by USB ports

Cyberattacks through USB data ports and other automotive interfaces are a well-known risk in automobiles. Several studies have revealed that modern cars can be hacked via USB ports and other inputs. The majority of these attacks are typically carried out using social engineering techniques, in which hackers use malicious USB devices to gain access to car systems.

Once inside, hackers can install malware and exploit the vehicle’s resources. This includes gaining access to personal information such as bank authentication PINs, messages, photos, and more by hacking the driver’s phone. Hackers can use USB ports to tamper with the firmware of your vehicle, making driving difficult or dangerous for you.

As a result, instead of a simple data cable, a hack-proof USB charging adapter is recommended. As automotive electronic systems advance, they will require the same level of security as your smartphone, computer, and server. Improved telematic navigation and tracking systems, which are now standard in vehicles, make connected vehicles appealing targets for hackers, terrorists, and nation-states.

Have a look at a few of the innovative and advanced tips that have proven to be quite effective in blocking the car hackers out of your system’s way:

  • Keep your smart system up to date, just like your phone and computer. Users can check for updates online by searching for the make and model of their smart car.
  • You must also subscribe to manufacturer updates to be automatically notified when issues and updates are reported.
  • To avoid potential attacks, users should only use official apps from legitimate sources. Always delete all sensitive data stored on the car’s onboard computer when selling or returning a smart car.
  • Installing antivirus software and using a VPN on your mobile device are also basic but necessary safeguards.
  • Finally, never use the default passwords to test the security of your WiFi connection.
  • Enabling automatic updates is always recommended to ensure that all internal software and systems are up to date.

Car manufacturers regularly discover updates, innovations to address system vulnerabilities. Hence, prevention does surface good layers of security but alertness is the active work of the car user. Also, going advanced with the best security regimes, solutions, and services can go a long way for stamping security.

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