Car Hackers Bottom Line: Cash, Not Wrecks

If you’re even a vague car enthusiast, headlines like these may be becoming a bit too familiar…and putting you on edge…especially if you own a newer vehicle with any kind of autonomous driving features or vehicle-to-vehicle communications that are becoming the norm with connected vehicles.

Oh, crap: hackers find new ways to override Jeep, Tesla software
Chinese hackers control Tesla brakes, lights from 12 miles away
Latest worry for Volkswagen owners: Wireless hack can unlock millions of Audis, Porsches, VWs

Who wouldn’t be concerned while watching videos (like below) of the steering and braking functions of various vehicles being taken control of by invisible strangers.


But taking control of a vehicles driving functions are not only extremely difficult…they have little to no financial incentive.

“Attackers will try to find exploits that provide a financial incentive, and it seems that safety-critical attacks don’t provide any obvious monetary return,” Andre Weimerskirch – VP Cybersecurity – Lear Corp.

Much more likely hacker activities, according to Weimerskirch, are money motivated things like:

  • Stealing the Vehicle – by remotely unlocking it.
  • Ransom – instead of stealing it outright…taking temporary control in exchange for a cash payment to regain control.
  • Hack into Vehicle Connected Cellphones – to steal credit card information, or use location data and apps to break into the driver’s home.

By 2020, about  55 percent of all new vehicles will be connected to a network like OnStar or Uconnect…according to the IIHS.  Older vehicles already have aftermarket solutions that will make the total of all the cars worldwide with some level of connectivity…at roughly 50 percent by then.  That ability for connected cars to “talk” to each other is what creates vulnerability to hackers.  It’s a sophisticated potential threat that vehicle owners have virtually no control over…responsibility resting almost exclusively with car makers.  But unfortunately, only about 40 percent of car companies have cybersecurity units dedicated to the problem…according to a survey conducted by McKinsey & Co.

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