Our vehicles are increasingly becoming mobile computers. Infotainment systems, automated driver assistance packages, keyless ignitions, and many more features give us added convenience, but they come at a cost. Hackers can use these high-tech features to gain access to (and, as researchers demonstrated in 2015, even gain control of) your vehicle. Since high-tech cars aren’t going away anytime soon, here’s how to protect yourself against vehicle hacking.
Keep Your Software Up to Date
Your car’s software will need to be updated periodically, just like your computer or smartphone. Keep a close eye on your inbox and mailbox, as well as your in-car notification systems, so you’ll know when an update is available. Some of these updates can be installed from your driveway, but many require a trip to the dealership. Don’t put off those visits – out-of-date software is a ripe target for vehicle hacking.
Stay in Contact with Your Manufacturer
Even though you probably get your car serviced with a trusted local mechanic, it still pays to keep a line of communication open with the manufacturer of your vehicle. You’ll be the first to know when a new security update or patch is available and whether or not your vehicle has been recalled. While you should always address a recall as soon as possible, computer and data security updates merit a special kind of urgency. Waiting on those puts you at risk of vehicle hacking. You don’t have to wait for your manufacturer to let you know about a recall, either. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers a recall checker on their website. Simply enter your VIN and see if there’s anything you need to address.
Guard Your Wi-Fi Password
This one seems simple, but you would be amazed how many people leave the password to their vehicle’s onboard Wi-Fi in the glove compartment, center console, or even a cupholder. If a criminal were to gain access to your vehicle, they’d easily be able to access the onboard systems and potentially wreak havoc. There’s no reason to make this easier for them.
Shut Off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi When Not in Use
You probably leave your car’s internet and Bluetooth systems on constantly – ready to communicate instantly with your phone and other devices as soon as you get in. However, these open connections can be exploited, even when the vehicle is off. Hackers can patch into your infotainment system through these connections and potentially take control of or disable key parts of your vehicle. The best practice is to turn off these features when you’re not using them. The same goes for any aftermarket connectivity components you may have installed.
Don’t Connect Unknown USB Drives
Be very sure you know and trust the contents of any USB drive you want to plug into your car. An infected USB can transmit malicious code to your vehicle and create quite a mess. Scan all USB drives using an antivirus program on your computer before you use them. Most security suites offer USB scanning among their features – although you may need to pay.
Keep Your Keys in the…Fridge?
Yep, you read that correctly. If you keep your keys on a hook or in a tray by the front door, you’re asking for trouble, particularly if you have keyless entry. As you know, your keyless entry is designed to allow you to access the vehicle only if your keys are in your hand or pocket – if your friend is holding them just a few feet away it won’t work. This can be frustrating, but it’s designed to protect you. However, hackers can take advantage of this feature and magnify the range of your fob, tricking your car into thinking you’re nearby. An amplification device held near the front door of your home with your keys close by while an accomplice opens your car door could spell disaster. To combat this, consider storing your keys in a bag or box that’s designed to block RFID signals, even when they’re in your pocket. Called Faraday bags, these inexpensive tools can help you thwart vehicle hacking. (The fridge will also work, but it might be hard on your fob’s battery life.)
Protect Your Investment
As with all types of hacking, the best defense is a good offense. Put these practices in place to ensure that you’re making vehicle hacking as difficult as possible, and share them with your friends and family. While you’re at it, make sure that you’re making smart decisions about your credit card processing as well. Give us a call at 1-855-360-0360 or drop us a line on our website. We’d love to show you how we’re different from other processors.
PS – If your auto shop isn’t using shop automation software, here’s why that needs to change today.
PPS – Not using a digital vehicle inspection tool yet? Here’s why you’re missing out.