A few decades ago, the only electric vehicles worth talking about were mini toy cars, RC’s and golf carts. Plug it, charge and play. If our younger selves could see all the cool toys for the big boys (and girls) at our disposal now, jaws would drop! Electric Vehicles are here, and these babies are getting splashier, faster and more internet-connected than your old PC. Thanks to companies like Tesla leading the charge, EV’s have hit the mainstream. But hitting the mainstream of consumer consciousness brings with it plenty of attention. And attention is a double-edged sword – you get noticed by both the good and the bad (ask Microsoft). The biggest threat for EVs by far is cybersecurity threats.
Here’s a list of Cyber Security Issues that Affect Electric Vehicles:
Table of Contents
1 Hacking Commercial Charging Stations
When an electric vehicle needs juice, the owner takes it to a charging station. The station provider charges a fee in exchange for energy, and everything is as it should be. Right? Wrong. Charging stations have plenty of inherent vulnerabilities that a hacker can exploit. Security expert Mathias Dalheimer was able to gain root access to a charging station and cause all sorts of chaos. ID tokens were easily copied and used for other transactions.
Criminals can collect ID cards, disable charging points and even rewire charging requests. This can lead to more significant problems, such as identity theft and personal data leaks. Most stations still use the old 2012 versions of the OCPP protocol, based on HTTP. HTTP is not encrypted, making it easy to exploit using man-in-the-middle attacks.
2 Hacking Remote Home Charging Stations
Many EV owners are now investing in home charging kits that they can control remotely using a mobile app. All an attacker needs to do is gain access to the Wi-Fi network the home charger connects to and brute-force his way in. From there, bypassing the system’s authentication is easy, and the hacker gains control. Hackers can pretty much do anything once they gain access to the system. This includes overcharging batteries, disrupt home electrical systems and cause fires.
3 Mobile App Exploit
Mobile apps are so ubiquitous these days that even electric vehicles use them for consumer convenience. This adds an extra layer of risk because it gives hackers another target to exploit. In 2016, researchers found a vulnerability in the Nissan Leaf’s companion app. The flaw let them hack Nissan’s EV by checking the vehicles VIN number and entering it into the app. Vin numbers are usually stenciled on the windshield and easy for an attacker to get. Qihoo 360 researchers were also able to hack a Tesla Model S after cracking the app’s six-digit code, controlling the lights, horn and door locks.
4 Wi-Fi Exploit
Electric vehicles offer Wi-Fi connectivity by default, giving consumers an internet access point. Wi-Fi networks can easily get hacked, according to researchers who cracked the pre-shared key on a Mitsubishi. The researchers were able to find vehicles using their unique SSIDs. The hack enabled them to disable the vehicle’s alarm and control other systems.
5 Attacking the Command and Control Server
Electric vehicles are more connected than ever before. This enables manufacturers to push important OTA updates. Dealerships can remind users about upcoming PMS or even their billing cycle. When a hacker attacks a connected vehicle system’s C&C server, she can reach all the autos connected to the server.
Attackers that hack into the command and control server can cause all sorts of problems. Think about it. With the click of a mouse, the attacker can disable an entire fleet of vehicles! Hackers can also do all kinds of mischief, including honking horns and annoying consumers to pay their bills.
The modern electric vehicle is a true marvel of engineering. The newer Tesla models can reach speeds equal to their gasoline engine counterparts. EVs that go fast do this with virtually no noise and zero emissions! Electric cars are the future, and the future is here. But these leaps in technology mean that consumers will also have to deal with cybersecurity threats. These threats are real and present a clear and present danger to all those who own an electric vehicle. If you own an EV, take extra steps in making sure that you are safe from these security threats.