It is almost impossible to find a vehicle on the street that is not equipped with technologies such as: Bluetooth, GPS o wifi, just like we have on our computers, mobile phones or tablets. But while in the latter we defend ourselves against cyber attacks through antivirus programs, firewalls or encryption, vehicles are more unprotected by the user from cybercriminals. Once they have accessed our car -physically or remotely-, a hacker can steal vehicle data and its occupants or, what is more dangerous, take control of the car itself, as long as it does not offer a good level of cybersecurity.
In addition, the arrival of the 5G networks It will have as many advantages for the user as complications when it comes to defending against cybercriminals. This new network will allow you to enjoy the “Internet of things”, or what is the same, the intercommunication of objects autonomously. As there are already refrigerators that can ask the supermarket for a box of milk or butter if they detect that these products have been exhausted, cars will be able to “talk” to each other to know data as important for safety as knowing where there has been a mishap, to circulate with caution, where there is a risk of suffering an accident, whether the road is icy or in poor condition, or even to communicate with traffic lights, traffic signs o data centers and emergency services to increase road safety.
All these communication routes are authentic multidirectional toll-free highways for cybercriminals, who in a short time will have an infinite number of ways to access our cars. As we said, the most dangerous part of these attacks will focus on taking control of the vehicle itself. Fully autonomous driving will be a reality in a very short time and will be notably optimized with 5G networks and the “internet of things”, but it will pose a challenge for computer scientists from car brands to shield the car from possible cybercriminals.
A current problem
It may seem that all this problem is a thing of the future, but the imposition of the e-call system of automatic assistance in the event of an accident – mandatory since March 31, 2018 for all newly homologated passenger cars and vans – makes any vehicle It is connected to a communications and data transmission system in place that fully exposes the user to cyberattacks. Also, criminals can open our cars simply by hacking into the smart key system, or know exactly our routines, tastes and preferences accessing the GPS routes or accessing the connection technology between the mobile and the vehicle’s infotainment system. With this they can plan the best time and place to commit a robbery or any other crime.
While is true that car brands spend millions of euros on cybersecurity and employ the best engineers to make their systems secure, it should be remembered that even the most advanced technology companies today suffer cyberattacks that penetrate their supposedly insurmountable digital barriers.
So what can we do to protect our cars from criminals? For now, trust in the brands themselves and their technology, in addition to having services such as that of the Spanish company Eurocybcar, which has developed the first test that verifies the level of cybersecurity of new vehicles. This initiative was born with a double objective: firstly, to check the level of protection of a car against cyberattacks against the connected systems of the vehicle, which can be carried out physically or remotely. Second, assess how these actions affect the safety of passengers, their privacy and also the very integrity of the car’s own systems.
And beyond the professional help of car companies and companies like Eurocybcar to protect vehicles, it is essential that users are already aware of the possible vulnerability of their cars, just as they have already done on their mobile devices.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.