Cyber security expert: “Treat your car like a laptop with wheels”

May 2, 2022
Editor, Canadian auto dealer magazine

People are woefully underestimating the likelihood of their car being hacked, says cyber security expert at Darktrace AI cyber security company, David Masson. And just because you drove your car off the lot 10 minutes ago doesn’t mean it’s safe. Dealers need to check that their inventory is free from viruses when the vehicles hit the lot.

With the ultra-connectivity of today’s vehicles, we can now do more from our cars than ever before, but this technology can also leave car owners (and car-sharers and renters) vulnerable to the same hacking concerns as with our laptops and work computers.

“We all periodically virus-check our computers for viruses as a matter of habit now,” says Masson, “but when you plug your phone into your car you are literally opening up all the personal information on there to the world.” People need to understand that cars have their own IP addresses that can be contacted by outside sources, he says. “Imagine your car is a laptop with wheels.”

For dealers, client information and supply chain hacks are a known concern, but dealerships should extend their “cyber hygiene” to the vehicles in their inventory as well. “Even for brand new vehicles, they may have been manufactured months ago, then on a ship for a month—there is a lot of opportunity for the software to be compromised.”

Dealers should ask their OEMs what firewalls and what virus protection software they are employing, as well as what other steps they are taking to protect their vehicles. And the industry as a whole should be more proactive about creating cyber-safety standards for all new vehicles, says Masson. “This problem is only going to become worse as technology advances.”

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