Smart cars offer many benefits to their owners: they are fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly, and easy to maneuver. However, what makes them smart is their connectivity – which is also what makes them vulnerable to security attacks.

Below, we discuss the emergence of smart cars in the automotive industry and the latest security threats associated with these vehicles.

The Smart Car Market

Global annual shipments of smart cars are expected to equal 76.2 million, according to the Worldwide Connected Vehicle Shipments Forecast presented by International Data Corporation. This figure was determined by assessing the compounded annual growth rate. Within the next five years, this rate is expected to be 16.8%, making it a very exciting time and period of rapid growth for smart cars.

Pros and Cons of Smart Cars

Smart cars are like traditional cars in many ways. However, what sets them apart is that they have advanced sensors, driving technology, artificial intelligence, and autonomous driving that makes them, well, smarter, than their traditional counterpart. If you are considering purchasing a smart car, be sure you understand the following pros and cons.

Pros

Some of the most attractive features of smart cars are:

  • Smaller size makes them easier to park and maneuver
  • Smaller engines make them quieter to operate and also cuts down on pollution
  • Smart cars are fuel-efficient, further reducing your carbon footprint

Cons

Some of the downsides of smart cars include:

  • The smaller size makes it more difficult for other motorists to see them
  • There is a greater possibility of injury due to the smaller size of the vehicle
  • There is a possibility of the vehicle being hacked due to its connectivity

Security Risks of Smart Cars

Smart cars come equipped with computers and transmit massive amounts of data. As such, they need to be properly secured to avoid hacking or other security threats that have historically been more aligned with computer security threats than vehicle threats. As smart cars continue to become more advanced, security measures will need to keep up to prevent vulnerabilities from arising.

Common Smart Car Threats

Some of the most common security threats of smart cars include:

Car Control Hacks

While it may feel like something out of a sci-fi story, one of the most alarming security concerns of smart cars is the possibility for someone to hack the vehicle and override its controls. A number of research studies have shown that smart cars can be hacked, often with relatively simple hacking techniques like password guessing or installing a virus into the car with a flash drive.

Hacks of this nature can cause:

  • Heat or air to turn on
  • Speeding up or braking
  • Radio to turn on
  • Infotainment system to be manipulated
  • Safety features not to work

Smart Alarm Hack

Another security concern is the smart alarm hack. Hackers are able to access the vehicle’s smart alarm to unlock the car or access private information stored in the vehicle.

Insecure Associated Apps

Smart cars can provide a number of additional features through the use of third-party apps. However, these apps may not contain the necessary security measures to prevent hackers from exploiting them to access the smart car’s technology. In one investigation, researchers analyzed seven associated apps and found the following:

  • Little or no code was present to prevent door unlocking
  • The apps did not encrypt the username or password of the vehicle owner
  • Mobile trojans could potentially be used to compromise the smart car

Used Smart Car Purchasing vs New Smart Car Purchasing

If you are considering purchasing a smart car, you might wonder whether you should purchase used or new. Here are the risks and benefits of buying a used car.

Benefits

There are many benefits to purchasing a used car, including a used smart car. These benefits include:

  • You can get a better deal since you aren’t the one who experiences the drastic decline in value after the vehicle is driven off the lot
  • Any security vulnerabilities related to the make and model of the car have probably been discovered and a solution has been created
  • User reviews can help you with the car comparison if you are considering a few different models
  • You will also save money with lower insurance premiums

Risks

Some of the risks of purchasing a used smart car include:

  • Previous owners may still be able to access the smart features of the car
  • You will likely pay more in maintenance costs
  • You may not know how well the vehicle was maintained

How to Protect Cars from Hacking

Fortunately, there are ways that you can minimize the security risks of smart cars, including:

  • Deactivate previous user access to the vehicle
  • Install the latest software and firmware updates
  • Lock your vehicle at all times
  • Report any problems associated with car hacking immediately
  • Do not install anything or download apps that have not been approved by the automaker
  • Deactivate unused services
  • Secure your Wi-Fi
  • Have a trusted mechanic routinely inspect your vehicle

Conclusion

Smart cars are here to stay. However, the cybersecurity risks they pose must be taken seriously by all members of the distribution chain. The creation of consistent standards across the automotive industry may help enhance security as manufacturers strike the balance between vehicle innovation and security. Until then, you can use the tips above to protect your smart car and your peace of mind.