Your new car is a technological marvel—it can do everything from read your social media feed aloud to parallel park itself. But all that wondrous tech also makes your vehicle vulnerable to a new threat: hacking. As difficult a feat as it is, hackers have demonstrated that they can achieve wireless control of certain vehicles’ steering, brakes and transmission. We’re still in the “infancy stages” of this problem, says Tyler Moffitt, senior threat research analyst at Internet security firm Webroot. But you can expect to hear about a lot more cases in years to come. For now, start using these five strategies to keep hackers from gaining access to your car.
1. Keep in Touch with the Manufacturer
“This is the most important thing you can do,” says personal security and identity theft expert Robert Siciliano. Make sure the manufacturer has your most up-to-date contact information and can reach you about necessary updates or applicable tech-related recalls. And periodically check SaferCar.gov to see if your vehicle has any active recalls.
2. Update Your Car’s Software
If the manufacturer tells you that your car’s firmware (the embedded software) needs updating, bring your car to the dealer ASAP. You’ll want the latest software to correct bugs that may make your car vulnerable. Or, if you’re more of a DIY person, download updates from the manufacturer—and only the manufacturer (make sure by going to their official site), then use a USB drive to install them in your car.
3. Firewall Your Fob
If your keyless-entry fob is near your car, say on your dining room table, sophisticated burglars can use electronic signal-amplifier devices from 100 feet away to unlock your car while it’s parked in the driveway—and maybe even drive off with it. To prevent this sort of attack, cut off the signal from the fob by storing it in a metal box or carrying it in an inexpensive holder that’s specially designed to thwart hackers. Or try a low-tech solution: Lock the car in your garage, if you have one.
4. Turn Off Bluetooth When You’re Not Using It
“If you’re not using Bluetooth connectivity with your cell phone in the car, turn the feature off on your device and the car,” advises Webroot’s Moffitt. Otherwise, Bluetooth is susceptible to data attacks, which can cause a device to crash or expose security holes. “Hackers could get in that way,” Moffitt adds.
5. Hide Your WiFi Password
If your car has a WiFi hotspot service, allowing you to remotely lock and unlock doors and start the engine, don’t keep your password in the car. “You’d be surprised how many people just leave it in the glove box,” Moffitt says. (Learn how to create the perfect password.)
Just the idea of high-tech hackers, bad weather and car breakdowns can be stressful. Feel protected behind the wheel with car insurance from GEICO. Get a fast, free quote today. Already insured? Protecting your identity should be next on your list.
By Mark Yarm
Read more: 5 ways to prevent car theft