Can My Car Get Hacked? See Who Is at Risk

For years now, computers have been regularly getting hacked into and so have phones and bank accounts. The newest fear that is giving people gray hairs is the threat of car hacking, which can be life-threatening. What all these types of cyber-attacks have in common is that technology is both the problem and the solution. When we want to make life easier and less chaotic, we plug in or gain connectivity to our lives using a myriad of devices. We also use technology to keep us safer with the most advanced safety systems in our vehicles. About the latter, the one question remains: Is car hacking a real worry or just a sensationalized scenario that will likely never happen?

The Anatomy of Car Hacking

Unfortunately, our already overwhelming lives really do include the possibility of car hacking. The more technologically advanced a car is the higher the chances of it being hacked into by a device like a computer or even a smartphone. And car jackers are becoming very savvy about how to get into the latest luxury cars that have the most advanced safety features. Self-driving or semi-autonomous vehicles are especially vulnerable to hackers because they are hyper-computerized and talk to one another. Hackers can, unfortunately, intercept these “conversations” to the driver’s detriment. In fact, all new cars are vulnerable to hacking to some degree because most are already computerized as well, just not all as much as, say, a Tesla. Another way hackers can gain access to a car is by phishing. Fake offers and pop-ups can easily download an app onto your phone that allows access into your car. Be careful about what you tap if you have a pricey and computerized car, but don’t panic (if that’s possible).

What Do Car Makers Have to Say About Hacking?

can my car get hackedAuto manufacturers are only now realizing that they didn’t foresee the hacking problem when designing their products which were intended to create more safety not more risk. Many are now struggling to prevent future incidents of car hacking, a topic which garners quite a lot of negative and often-sensationalized attention. But there really is no denying the very real dangers of a car getting hacked into. In 2015, several car hacking demonstrations caught the attention of most Americans. What we learned was terrifying. The undeniable risk of having your car hacked is that the person who seizes control of a computerized self-driving car can run the vehicle off the road or crash it into another vehicle, pedestrian or object. This prospect is, indeed, terrifying but also straight out of a James Bond film. How many of us have these kinds of mortal enemies, and how many psychopaths are there out there looking to harm a stranger in this way? The most realistic fear is, of course, theft. It’s that simple.

Prevention: Hackers for Hire

Tech companies are starting up with a sole focus on preventing car hacking. In fact, a security firm, Trend Micro, published a report on how a hacker can easily turn off a vehicle’s safety mechanisms, which includes brakes and airbags. Cyber security software is already in high demand even though there are only a few semi-autonomous vehicles on the road today. Without the software written by computer geniuses, drivers are prey to very skilled hackers who know how to beat through many levels of standard security features built-in by the manufacturer. Also, car makers are beginning to design with an awareness of hacking vulnerabilities. They’ve even been paying hackers to uncover new vulnerabilities in vehicle software, sometimes up to $1,500 per discovery! In fact, hackers have the hottest jobs in the auto industry right now and are in high demand. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is just one organization that pays hackers to find security issues.

Reality Check

The fact remains that the extreme examples of how a car can be hacked into are not very real threats to cars on the road. For one thing, the hacker can’t be very far, so to say this type of work can be done remotely is a big stretch. Also, the hacker must initially access the car’s network through some sort of connection, be it Wi-Fi or some sort of port in the dashboard. The only hackers capable of doing any real damage seem to need extensive knowledge of CAN protocol, which is the components cars use to communicate with one another. There aren’t too many people out there with this skill—at least for now.

The Future of Car Hacking

The future of car hacking looks bleak for car owners, but as problems with new technology arise (and arise they always also do initially), tech companies will step in and solve them before they turn into common disasters. There is no denying the fact that people will be more prone to car hacking as cars increasingly become connected to the internet. Entry is already a problem and people will continue to devise new ways of stealing cars. As for driving others off the road or causing all functions to become disabled—hackers will become more sophisticated, but so will vehicles. Manufacturers have learned that they need to treat this issue preventatively and will continue to do so.

Can Older Cars Get Hacked?

At this point, you might be asking yourself: Can my car get hacked? If a car has a fob system it is vulnerable to hacking. In fact, access via unauthorized entry using a fob is the most common issue with hacking and it will probably remain the biggest challenge car owners will face. However, an easy fix is to buy RFID key fob protector. They even make purses with fob protectors these days. The devices insurance companies use to monitor driving habits also leave car owners prone hacking. These devices connect via a port on the underside of the steering column, which also serves as an entry point for hackers. All an owner must do to keep it from turning into a weapon against is to unplug it or remove it. Cars and trucks have so many wireless entry points that can be hacked that you will drive yourself crazy trying to prevent every possible way of getting hacked. Our suggestion is to unplug or remove safety features only when you’re not driving the vehicle.

Assurance and Insurance

While it’s a good idea to make your car as invulnerable to hacking as possible, it’s important to remain level-headed about disabling safety features for fear of being hacked. The benefits of having working safety systems in your car greatly outweigh the slight risk of getting hacked. It is especially absurd to think it may happen while you’re driving. You’re still far safer with a car that has the most advanced safety systems than an older car that is safe from hacking. You’ll also likely see a discount on your Car Insurance because of new safety devices do prevent collisions, which are far more likely to happen than getting run off the road by a deranged hacker. If you’re wondering if you’re covered if your car gets hacked into and stolen, you are covered for theft only if you have Comprehensive coverage on your vehicle.


The information in this article was obtained from various sources. This content is offered for educational purposes only and does not represent contractual agreements, nor is it intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. The definitions, terms and coverage in a given policy may be different than those suggested here and such policy will be governed by the language contained therein. No warranty or appropriateness for a specific purpose is expressed or implied.

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