Hacking Cars? There’s an App for That!


hyundai

In the internet of things age, it seems that everything—from cars to cows—is connected to the web. IoT devices often come with companion mobile applications that seek to enhance customers’ experience with the product. Wish you could start warming up the car on a frigid morning using your phone from the comfort of your home? If you have the properly equipped Hyundai Motor Co. vehicle and the companion app Blue Link, you can! 

Except… until recently, the app could have allowed hackers to cyberhijack your ride. 

According to an April 25 report by cybersecurity company Rapid7, two outdated versions of Blue Link contained vulnerabilities that could have exposed users’ sensitive information, including username, password and geolocation data. Using this information, Rapid7 found, hackers can “remotely locate, unlock and start the associated vehicle.”

A Hyundai spokesman told Bloomberg BNA April 25 that within three days after being notified of the vulnerability, Hyundai “released mandatory updates to the Android and Apple app stores that mitigated the potential effects of the vulnerability.” He said the potential vulnerability didn’t have a direct impact on vehicle safety and that Hyundai isn’t aware of any customers affected by the issue.

Auto industry professionals and government officials have said that connected cars present prime opportunities to “revolutionize mobility,” but they stand out as a prominent and enticing target for cybercriminals. Modern cars have multiple electronic control units that are vulnerable to hacker attacks, including the transmission control unit, engine control unit, telematics and even the radio. The 2015 hack of a Jeep through its entertainment system was one of the first publicized connected vehicle hacking incidents.  The commercial trucking industry is also worried about hacking

Third party application cybersecurity is a “key emerging area for automotive issues and with companies in general,” Mark Krotoski cybersecurity partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP in Palo Alto, Calif., told Bloomberg BNA April 25. Car manufacturers must do their due diligence “and testing to make sure” the third party app doesn’t bring with it increased cybersecurity risk, he said. Car makers could ensure that the vehicle is secured “but the third party app could create a new security weakness,” he said. 

It isn’t only ground vehicles that pose cybersecurity risks in the IoT age. By infiltrating the in-flight entertainment system, hackers may be able take control of a commercial airliner, in mid-flight.

Compared to these connected aerial and ground vehicles, the Wright Flyer and the Ford Model T seem absolutely cybersecure. 

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