Picture this! A vehicle loaded with hazards material is driving down the highway at 65 miles an hour, when suddenly, the driver realizes he is no longer in control of the vehicle, some hacker is. As the technology in our vehicles becomes more and more advanced, the threat of hacking becomes more serious.
Consumer Reports highlights some of the steps the auto industry is taking to fight the growing hacking threat. The first company to issue a cybersecurity recall was Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which was issued due to the Jeep hacking incident in 2015. In the beginning of the year a federal court ruled that a class action lawsuit relating to the recall may proceed. Cybersecurity weakness is now a major liability and manufacturers are taking note.
So, how can hackers access the software? Security experts say the trouble starts with any place the vehicle connects with the internet, such as built-in Wi-Fi hotspots, data streams, or built-in infotainment apps (this is more for cars, but trucks need to be vigilant of any built-in tech). Vehicles usually have multiple, separate computers that control the different functions, which are all vulnerable if not properly secured. The network connecting all these computers is a target as well.
Back to the hazmat example, many security experts say the most likely near-term threat will be if hackers crack the code to reach millions of vehicles of the same make and model. They believe the plan is to lock the owners of their cars while demanding millions from the automaker. This threat is known as ransomware. Way back in 2010, a disgruntled former employee at Texas Auto Center used a co-worker’s account to log into company software and was able to disable over 100 cars. Commercial firms are seeing such threats to their cargo. Fortunately, this has not happened on a mass scale but if hackers can crack a model code, billions of dollars in freight could be held ransom by someone with a tablet.
So, what can you do to protect your vehicle? Well, there are some basic things. One, is to keep in touch with the manufacturer and keep all software up to date. Turning off the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when not in use is another. Also, scan any external USB drives before plugging them into ports, like how you would scan something before downloading it to a personal device. To that end, make sure all passwords are strong and do not use the same password on multiple accounts. Make sure to keep software updates current. The last recommendation is to store wireless keys in a way that blocks their short-range radio signals. Some people store them in a refrigerator. Another means is a device known as a Faraday Bag. Over the road truckers may want to carry these bags with them and store their keys in them rather than in their pockets while at truck stops or other public places.