RAC Cars News


Cyber Criminals Could Be A Threat To The Computer In Your Car

By raccars Published

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Luxury car owners face a growing risk of attack from cyber criminals, who can hack into their dashboards to steal vehicles or interfere with safety systems. Vehicles are even under threat while driving along the road, thanks to permanent internet connections.

The forthcoming new wave of car safety features includes the ability for cars to communicate with each other in order to avoid road accidents. However, the same network used to keep cars safe could also potentially be used against them. In car internet services and car to car connectivity systems could be vulnerable to hackers or viruses, which could see safety systems compromised.

While car crime has been steadily decreasing since the early Nineties, when a car thief's tool of choice was a screwdriver rather than a computer, modern technology could see vehicle crime figures rise again. Thieves are already manipulating keyless entry systems using wireless technology to steal cars, but the newest generation of modern technology could lead to a whole new wave of car crime. Motoring groups are particularly concerned about the vulnerability of safety systems to hacker attacks.

MWR Security has warned that there are also privacy issues surrounding in car connectivity, as hackers could use a car's internet connection not only to steal data but to listen in to in car microphones and hear passengers' private conversations. Satellite navigation information could also be remotely downloaded.

The danger comes not from opportunists thieves or the joyriders of old, but from organised criminal gangs, whose targets are mostly high end, luxury vehicles. With equipment bought easily online, cars are now easier to steal than ever before.

At this stage, the number of cars stolen may be lower than at the peak of 1990s car crime, but the total value is higher. Insurers report that 2% of losses are attributed to stolen cars, while 5% of households have experienced car crime of some kind. Half of all vehicle theft is currently completed electronically and 11% of stolen vehicles are unlocked.

At the moment, the vehicles' on board diagnostic ports are their most vulnerable points, but these can be protected by a device which prevents thieves from plugging in their equipment to gain control. Car owners can also add an extra layer of security by fitting a Thatcham approved immobiliser, which is independent from the on board diagnostic port.

In the meantime, car manufacturers are working with the police, car security firms and IT experts to come up with ways of protecting cars with internet connectivity systems from hackers.

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