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The FBI and U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a warning on Thursday that vehicles are becoming “increasingly vulnerable” to hacking. Breaches of vehicle cybersecurity happen when a hacker gains access to a vehicle system, giving him or her access to driver data or the ability to manipulate vehicle functionality.

According to the public service announcement, hackers can also use their access to install malware by sending fake emails to consumers about “software updates.” When the consumer clicks on the link,   he or she “could be tricked into clicking links to malicious Web sites or opening attachments containing malicious software.”

Though relatively new, hacking of vehicle software has a costly potential. Last year, both Fiat Chrysler and BMW issued recalls to fix security flaws that would have left up 3.6 million vehicles susceptible to hacking.

FBI and NHTSA officials are urging consumers to take steps to reduce vehicle cybersecurity risks:

  • Keep your vehicle software up-to-date. If a manufacturer notifies you of a software update available for your vehicle, it is important to verify its authenticity before installing it. You can do this by checking the vehicle manufacturer’s website to determine whether any software updates have been issued by the manufacturer. Use a trusted USB or SD card storage device when downloading and installing software to a vehicle. Do not download software from third-party websites or file-sharing platforms.
  • Use caution when making modifications to vehicle software. If you make unauthorized modifications to your vehicle’s software, you may leave your vehicle open to hackers by introducing new vulnerabilities to the software. In addition, altering your vehicle’s software may impact its normal operation.
  • Be careful when connecting third-party devices to your vehicle. All modern vehicles have a standardized diagnostics port called an OBD-II. This port provides a connection to the in-vehicle communication network, which is typically only accessed by maintenance technicians. Recently the availability of third-party devices that can access the diagnostics port has increased, putting this port at a greater risk of hacking. Maintaining the security of these devices is important because they could provide a hacker with a means of accessing vehicle systems and driver data remotely.
  • Maintain awareness of who has access to your vehicle. Do not leave your car unlocked, in an unsecure location, or with someone you do not trust. If you use a remote device to unlock or start your vehicle, only do so when you are in close proximity.

 

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education.

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