Vehicle software updates are regularly issued for a variety of reasons. Reasons include bug fixes, vehicle performance improvements, to add new features or to protect against recently discovered vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to gain access to vehicle software and control systems.

It might sound like something out of a movie – but hackers are finding ways to bypass and access your automotive security defences and hack into your vehicle. Modern cars are loaded with embedded electronic control units (ECUs) that monitor and control core vehicle functions, such as the navigation system, steering, brakes, entertainment, and the engine.

How can hackers control your car? Here are some of the ways your vehicle can be hacked:

1. Overriding the car’s keyless entry

Cars with keyless entry systems are the most likely to fall victim to this type of attack. Most cars today have a remote keyless system that allows you to lock/unlock the car, start the engine, and control the vehicle’s windows and alarm system.

The key fob communicates with the vehicle, transmitting encrypted signals, which are decrypted by the ECU and matched with stored data for successful authentication. Hackers can clone the encrypted radio signal and unlock the car with a counterfeit key. If a criminal can hack your keyless entry system, they can easily enter your car and drive away.


2. Smartphone access

By hacking into your connected car, the hacker can potentially gain access to the smart devices you have paired with the vehicle. Any information you’ve uploaded into your system, including passwords, driving patterns, financial data, and credit card information, can be at risk. Hackers can also exploit the apps on the connected smart devices to get personal information about the car owner.

3. Hacking your USB port

Modern vehicles can be compromised via USB ports and other inputs, including the infotainment system. Once inside, hackers can install malware and make use of devices paired with the vehicle.

This includes breaking into the driver’s phone to access personal information such as bank details, messages, photos, etc. Hackers can exploit the USB ports to mess with the car’s firmware and make the driving experience difficult or dangerous for the driver.

Hacking telematics

4. Telematics

The advanced telematics navigation and tracking systems that now come standard on vehicles, make connected cars tempting targets to hackers. Features like the weather alerts and GPS location are being updated via vehicle telematics. Any compromise of the system may result in false weather info and wrong navigation.

How do you protect your vehicle from these cybercriminals? Here are some of the steps that you can take:

Keep Your Systems Up-to-Date

Important patches and updates are sent out regularly to sort out vulnerabilities in the vehicle’s system.

Be Wary of Third-Party Software

Installing third-party apps and software can create vulnerabilities and put your car at risk. Make sure you install authenticated apps and tools.

Limit Access

You should allow access only to people you trust. You should switch off your car’s connectivity and Bluetooth when you are not using it.

Block Unauthorized Communication

By installing an embedded firewall, you can avoid these attacks and block unauthorized communication with the car’s onboard computers. An effective firewall will filter communications and only allow authorized individuals to communicate with the car.

Automotive hacking unfortunately has become a reality of the new world of connected vehicles. You should always consider the security aspect of the vehicle. If there are access control features on the vehicle, make sure that you set strict controls. Set strong passwords and never share them with anyone.

We want to keep our VAG Spec Centre Family safe on the road. If you are in need of a software update, get in touch with us today! Stay alert and you can keep malicious hackers at bay.