Why Every Car Owner Needs to Start Prioritising Cybersecurity ASAP

This is a collaborative blog post.

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Do you consider yourself a tech-savvy driver? When you’re thinking about ways to take care of your car, you’re most likely thinking about all of the standard methods of going about it, like changing your tyres during the winter, checking the battery, well, just the basic things that every single car owner needs. The last thing you’re going to think about is having to worry about a hacker getting into your car, right? A car thief is bad enough, but this might be just as bad, if not worse! 


But it’s true, it’s not only your phone and computer that you need to look out for, but nowadays cars need to be considered too. So, having a computer system within the car isn’t new, not just an infotainment. But the on-board computer specifically. So, these have been in cars since the 1970s, but there’s nothing fancy about them. The older models are different than modern ones, but they still have their own vulnerabilities. 


So, why is this even prevalent? Well, cyber security is getting put as a top priority because there’s a major issue, and that is the fact that nowadays hackers can literally hack into your car! There were already some major concerns about maintaining privacy while looking for unique reg plates for sale and what you’re doing through the car window. But now, you need to think about your data and privacy just from your car and make sure that the computer within your car doesn’t get hacked, bricked, or anything that could total your car or get you injured when you’re behind the wheel. 


There are already some major threats to self-driving cars, which have been all over the news since the start of 2024, but hackers are getting smarter, especially with AI. So, even if you don’t own a luxury smart car like a Tesla, your car may still be at risk!

What Should You Be Concerned About?

Sadly, you have to do anything and everything you can to protect yourself, and that goes for the cyber world, too. So, like your phone, laptop, and accounts on apps and websites, you also need to try to stay vigilant with your car. Sure, there will be some limitations here and there, and you can’t control everything (such as vulnerabilities from the company’s end). Regardless, there are some things you can still do, and you still need to be concerned. This is a serious deal, and it’s not some science fiction dystopia, either. 

Digital Vulnerabilities

Who doesn’t love their Infotainment system? It’s amazing getting to live in this day and age. It’s pretty much the golden age for technology, but there are still downsides to this, like hackers getting craftier in what they do. As vehicles become more interconnected and reliant on digital systems, they become susceptible to cyber threats. 

But how? Well, hackers can exploit vulnerabilities in a car’s software or network connectivity to gain unauthorised access and control over critical functions, such as braking, acceleration, and steering. It’s terrifying, really, the fact that you’re driving, and it gets to the point where you literally have no control. It’s nightmarish! 

The consequences of a cyber attack on a vehicle can range from inconvenience (like your car not running) to life-threatening danger (like literally losing all control of the moving vehicle), so that’s why highlighting the importance of robust cybersecurity measures matters so much! 

Data Privacy Concerns 

Did you know that modern cars collect and store a wealth of data? It’s true; it’s like that of your other devices. It holds data about you, including driving habits, location history, and personal preferences. This data can be a goldmine for hackers seeking to steal sensitive information or conduct targeted attacks. 

Again, it’s like data privacy on other devices; it can be used for bad intentions. So, without adequate cybersecurity safeguards in place, car owners risk compromising their privacy and exposing themselves to identity theft, financial fraud, or other malicious activities.

Remote Access Exploitation

You’re already familiar with some remote access features owners have, for example, clicking a remote and being able to get your car to beep, open the trunk, and lock/ unlock the car. Nowadays, it’s not even from those little remotes, but it can be done from smartphones or smartwatches. Needless to say, it’s pretty amazing, right? While convenient, these features can also be exploited by hackers if not properly secured. 


It’s like the example stated earlier, the chance that you’re driving, or just in your car, and you lose access to control. You have to keep in mind that unauthorised access to a vehicle’s remote control capabilities can lead to theft, vandalism, or even remote hijacking of the vehicle while in motion, causing fatalities. This is literally the future, and it can happen to you! With AI accelerating, it’s only a matter of time. 

There’s a Continous Threat on the Horizon

Again, this isn’t a science fiction concept; this can happen. The cybersecurity threat landscape is constantly evolving, with hackers devising new tactics and techniques to exploit vulnerabilities in automotive systems. Again, AI is literally accessible by everyone, and it’s only going to help hackers. What may seem secure today could become vulnerable tomorrow as cybercriminals discover new attack vectors or exploit previously unknown weaknesses. 


That’s why you need to expect the unexpected and remain vigilant and proactive in addressing cybersecurity risks to stay ahead of emerging threats. You need to keep up with this, like scams and attacks that happen on personal devices. Well, your car can be the next target of a hacker. 

Safety Implications

Ultimately, the primary concern is safety. As stated, a compromised vehicle not only jeopardises the safety of everyone in the car but also poses a threat to other road users and pedestrians. It’s about having unauthorised remote access and using this to maliciously manipulate critical vehicle systems. Needless to say, cyber attacks like this can have catastrophic consequences on the road. 

What Can You Do to Protect Your Car from Hackers?

So, with the nightmare fuel that was mentioned above, what exactly can you even do to protect yourself? Is it even possible, for that matter, to stay safe? Well, thankfully, yes, it’s definitely possible, but where do you even begin?

Stay Up to Date with Software Updates

Just like your computer or smartphone, your car’s software needs regular updates to patch security vulnerabilities and improve overall performance. So, you’ll have to stay vigilant for software update notifications from your vehicle manufacturer and install them promptly (ideally the second you’re notified). These updates often contain critical security patches that can help prevent hackers from exploiting known vulnerabilities.

Secure Your Wireless Networks

While it’s amazing that cars can connect to Wifi, it’s a bit scary at the same time. The same goes for Bluetooth and cellular connections. There’s no doubt that these are convenient; however, these features can also serve as entry points for hackers if they are not properly secured. You read that right; it’s Open Season for them if you do this. So that’s why it’s a good idea to just change default passwords, enable encryption, and disable unnecessary wireless connections to reduce the risk of unauthorised access to your car’s systems.

Protect Onboard Electronics

 Your car’s electronics, especially the infotainment systems and onboard diagnostics, are potential targets for hackers looking to infiltrate your vehicle’s systems. It’s best to just start implementing basic security measures. For example, you might want to set up a strong PIN or password for access to sensitive functions and data.

Believe it or not, you’ll also want to be cautious when connecting external devices such as USB drives or smartphones, as they can introduce malware or viruses to your car’s systems. This can be intentional or accidental, so be careful!

Be Wary of Third-Party Apps and Devices

It’s true that aftermarket devices and smartphone apps can enhance your driving experience, but not everything is always as perfect as you might imagine. They can also introduce security risks if not vetted properly. This is such a huge mistake so many owners make, so it’s really going to be in your best interest to only use reputable devices and apps from trusted sources and review their privacy and security settings before granting access to your vehicle’s systems or data. Plus, you’ll want to avoid jailbreaking or rooting your car’s software, as it can void warranties and compromise security.

Think About the Physical Measures, Too

You already know how to protect your car from vandals and thieves, but hackers will try to access it even on a physical level. You’re going to want to go ahead and invest in steering wheel locks, wheel clamps, or electronic immobilizers to make it more difficult for thieves to steal your vehicle (or get into it). You should park in well-lit areas with surveillance cameras when possible and consider installing a GPS tracking system to locate your car in the event of theft. If you have an EV, be careful about the chargers you use to charge it. 


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