Connected Cars Face A Growing Risk Of Cybercriminals

Sundar Pichai - Oct 01, 2019

Connected Cars Face A Growing Risk Of Cybercriminals

Since all functions of a connected car are controlled via a single mobile application, hackers can easily break into them then take control of the entire system.

The term “connected cars” is gaining more attention in recent times, which refers to cars that have their connection to the internet, usually via WLAN. With connectivity, the vehicle possesses the ability to share broadband with others, facilitating communication between cars, with the dealership, and with emergency services.

Widely, connected cars have been integrated with more advanced technologies like augmented reality (AR), computer vision, or virtual reality (VR) and so on. Such technologies have brought out a far better user experience, however, these additional facilities are posing a growing threat of cyberattacks to cars’ users all over the world. 

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The term "connected cars" refers to cars with their connection to the internet

Previous Cases And Studies

In 2016, a vulnerability was found in the NissanConnect EV app, which led to some attackers manipulating a Nissan Leaf car. Following the event, the brand had to shut down several functionalities while it fixed the loopholes. Earlier this year, vehicle-sharing service Car2Go lost control of more than 70 vehicles as a result of fraudulent activity, as announced by the Financial Times. 

First Data Connected Car Commerce
A vulnerability was found in the NissanConnect EV app in 2016

“The number is growing,” says Dan Sahar, vice-president at Upstream Security. In the first half of 2019, there recorded 71 incidents of car cyberattacks, as compared with 73 for the whole of a year ago (according to data from Upstream). A study carried out by Georgia Institute of Technology reveals that connected cars will possibly create huge problems for the transportation infrastructure. Specifically, by taking control of merely 20% of total connected vehicles during rush hour, attackers will have the capability of freezing traffic in such a big city as Manhattan. 

Connected Cars
There recorded 71 incidents of car cyberattacks in the first half of 2019

Why Hackers Target Connected Cars

The reason behind the possibility of hacking into connected cars is that each car owns a single central system without offering a car key. Usually, connected cars provide a variety of features, including remote control over car ignition or sunroof, door lock, and more. Since all functions are activated via a single mobile application, hackers can utilize one component to easily intrude the other, thus taking control of the entire car. 

Apart from that, the increasing amount of user data available on the servers makes connected cars the “goldmine” for attackers. Data ranging from contacts, emails, as well as ID numbers to the tracking information of drivers has increased the incentives for malicious activities. 

Blog Safety First Connected Cars Need A Digital Pr
Each connected car owns a single central system without offering a car key

How Hackers Break Into A Connected Car

In term of methods, most of the time, hackers attempt to inject certain malicious code into the system of a car, which includes an operating system, firmware, or back-end infrastructure. Although such activity can be conducted remotely, major successful incidents happen within close proximity to the cars’ appliances.

Since connected cars are usually keyless, hackers are able to block users outside or inside the car, then execute an attack called "key fob hacking." Obviously, the car will reject any form of communication when it's under control of attackers. The final purpose of these malicious activities is usually to require a ransom. 

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Hackers never stop attempting to inject certain malicious code into the car's system

However, this type of attacks is considered difficult to keep track of. Once fraudsters succeed in injecting the malicious code, they can also intrude the controller area network (CAN), thus taking over sub-systems such as audio or antilock brakes. In the meantime, the automotive industry currently has a very complicated and diverse supply chain as most of the components derive from multiple third-party companies, consisting of software, communication protocols, and also applications. 


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