Making Your Car Safe From Hackers

Kia K-900

Serving Woodstock, Marietta,
, and Canton, GA

Making Your Car Safe From Hackers

With the use of “smart” technology widespread in new automobiles, vehicles are becoming “increasingly vulnerable” to hackers. These nefarious characters can remotely tap into an automobile’s computer system and take control of the locks on the doors and the brakes, override the steering and even shut down the engine. The potential danger is so real and widespread, the FBI and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released a PSA warning automobile owners to be use every means at their disposal to control access to the computers in their vehicles.

Protecting Against Automobile Hackers

Skilled hackers can gain control of people’s vehicles through access to the onboard diagnostic port federally mandated on most modern automobiles. They can also use malicious spyware in aftermarket devices automobile owners use or install in their vehicles. While automobile manufactures and automobile safety organizations work to eliminate the vulnerabilities in the computer-controlled systems in most modern vehicles, it’s up to the owners of the latest cars, trucks and SUVs to take steps to protect their vehicles from hackers. The following are some steps that can help.

1. Keep Automobile Software Updated

The FBI and NHTSA recommend taking immediate action when automobile manufacturers announce the need to update the software in your vehicle. First, verify the software update notification is legitimate by visiting the manufacturers website or through a trusted local dealership. Malware and phishing scammers sometimes use false notifications. Often the automobile manufacturer mails owners a USB drive which holds the software update. You can go to the dealership to have the new software installed or install it yourself if you have the knowledge and skill required.

2. Don’t Download Unverified Automobile Software

One easy way for hackers to infiltrate the computer in your vehicle is via a USB, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connected devices like smartphones or tablets. Hackers can also use the wireless communication functions in your vehicle. A common scam is to send targeted automobile owners malicious software and instruct them to install it. The hackers then gain easy access to the systems in the vehicle. That’s why verifying the source of any unsolicited automobile software you receive in the mail or are offered by random ‘marketing agents’ or automotive technicians is essential.

3. Pay Attention To Vehicle Recalls

When automobile manufacturers realize a vehicle’s software is be vulnerable to hacking, they issue a recall. This entitles vehicle owners you to get the upgrade done at no cost. The recall may be broadcast through the media or sent out via email or the postal service. Ignoring the recall notice leaves the automobile at the mercy of hackers. Once you realize there’s a recall on the software on your vehicle, follow the manufacturer’s directions and have the software issue addressed. If you want to know about vehicle software recalls, visit

4. Don’t Randomly Modify The Software

Automobile manufacturers upload the software at the factory that’s necessary for the vehicle to function safely and efficiently. However, automobile owners sometimes listen to friends and acquaintances or do research on their own and decide to modify the software. This can have a negative impact on your vehicle. When you make unauthorized adjustments and modifications to the software in an automobile, it can prevent it from operating the way it was designed to do. Plus, the changes may introduce new vulnerabilities which hackers can exploit.

5. Limit Access To Your Vehicle’s Computer

It’s easy to gain access to an automobile’s computer and introduce malicious spyware and other programs through the onboard diagnostics port that most vehicles today have located under the dashboard. It only takes a moment for a knowledgeable hacker to compromise your vehicle’s computer system. That’s why it’s important to keep your car, truck or SUV locked and limit the number of people who have access to it. That includes being selective about the people you choose to service your automobile. Unless you would trust them with your phone or your personal computer, don’t give them unfettered access to your vehicle’s computer.

6. Be Selective With Third-Party Devices

As the PSA released by the FBI and the NHTSA points out, the same systems which help with the level of in-vehicle connectivity and communication networks and allow for plug and play devices like thumb drives, can leave your vehicle vulnerable to hackers. They can gain access through third-party devices you randomly plug into your vehicle. Some of the popular vehicle monitoring tools people connect to their automobiles can be used by devious individuals to introduce malicious spyware that can give them remote access to the data and systems that control your vehicle and allow them to attack it at will. Using only properly screened, high-quality, trusted devices can keep hackers from accessing and controlling the systems in your automobile.

7. Monitor Your OBD-II Port

The OBD-II port in most newer vehicles is located under the driver’s side of the dashboard. Become familiar with where it is and what it looks like. If it appears to have been tampered with or something unusual or unfamiliar is plugged into it, you should contact your local dealership. The OBD-II port is a ‘vector’ hackers can use as a gateway to install a device that can make it possible for them to hack your automobile remotely, take control of some of the systems and potentially endanger the lives of anyone in it.

8. Fully Implement Security Systems

Research has found that many vehicles are vulnerable to hackers because owners do not fully implement the authentication controls and other elements of the security systems. These security elements were put in place to protect against unauthorized access to your vehicle’s computer and the important systems it controls. By making sure all the security systems in your automobile are being used, you make it much more difficult for hackers and tech-pranksters to taking over your vehicle’s vital systems.

9. Turn The Wi-Fi Off

Many newer models of automobiles have Wi-Fi hotspots as one of their tech gadgets. Designed to provide occupants with connectivity while they are on the go, a vehicle’s Wi-Fi hotspot can provide hackers with an easy way to gain access to and control of the crucial systems in you new car, truck or SUV. To thwart hackers and thieves, when you aren’t using the Wi-Fi be sure to turn it off. If you don’t, people who are up to no good can pick up your signal and worm their way into the control center of your automobile undetected and do whatever they want. Plus, you should guard your Wi-Fi password. Never store in in the center console or glove compartment where intruders can find it.

10. Insurance Premium Program Dongle Dangers

A growing number of insurance companies offer discounts to their clients if they are allowed to monitor their driving habits by putting a dongle into the OBD-II port. While doing so can show you are a safe driver and lead to lower insurance premiums, those dongles can compromise the security of your vehicle’s computer controlled systems. Often the dongles lack the appropriate security technology and can provide skilled hackers with an easy path into the computer in your automobile. While you may get a safe driver discount, the dongles can let hackers make driving your automobile unsafe.

The FBI, NHTSA and cybersecurity experts say people should take automobile hacking seriously. While automakers work to put more secure systems in place, automobile owners should remain vigilant. If they’re not, hackers could take control of their vehicles.