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7 Ways to Prevent Your Car Fleet from Being Hacked

Car-hacking is becoming more common worldwide. Attackers take advantage of digital technologies as an integral part of cars to exploit and steal vehicles or sensitive data. Car fleet owners risk their finances and reputation with every attack.

person inside vehicle holding steering wheel

In this post, we’ll explain what the risks are of being hacked and how to prevent them.  

Is Your Fleet at Risk of Being Hacked? 

The short answer is probably yes. Modern car models control a significant number of critical components via computer software connected to a computer network. Until a few years ago, the software in cars was isolated and small. Today, there is hardly any major component in a vehicle, from the engine to the brakes, not connected to the car computer. According to Statista:

“ The global auto industry is projected to deliver some 76.3 million connected cars by 2023. Europe is slated to be the market with the largest connected car fleet globally in 2023.” (Source)

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A connected car is fitted with a technology that allows its user to control functions with a smartphone. Connected car users can lock/unlock the vehicle and manage the car’s heating or booking service. 

Besides the convenience, connected cars computers manage critical functions such as driving behavior, vehicle location, parking, steering, and more, which can be dangerous if falling into criminal hands. 

What does this mean for fleets? Although connecting your fleet brings benefits such as saving costs and improving performance, it also carries risks- once the fleet is connected, it is exposed to potential cyber-attacks that endanger the entire fleet. Attackers can use telematics to gain entry to the backend servers, the company IT network, or the vehicle itself. 

Organizations like the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NFMTA) encourage fleet service providers to strengthen security in their systems and Integrated Automated Driving Systems (ADS). 

How to Prevent a Car from Being Hacked

  1. Keep the software updated.

Updated software is the first step for good cybersecurity hygiene is to keep the vehicles’ software, your systems, and any fleet management software you have in place. Updating your software enables you to patch security bugs, eliminating potential points of entry for attackers. 

  1. Be careful with third-party devices.

Third-party devices or systems can introduce risks to your network. You increase the security of your fleet by having a security policy in place. Implement guidelines for installing devices and software only from a trusted brand and on a secure network, subject to the company’s final approval. Being cautious can significantly reduce the chances of getting malicious software from unverified sources. 

  1. Leverage cloud cybersecurity software

One way to protect your fleet from being hacked is to leverage cybersecurity software. While many car manufacturers are embedding security solutions in new cars, fleets already on the road are often limited to installing software or devices on each vehicle. There is, however, a more practical alternative: cloud cybersecurity software. 

Companies like Upstream.auto enable fleet owners to secure multiple vehicles with a cloud-delivered solution covering each car and the entire vehicle network. Their centralized car cybersecurity platform analyzes the data collected by the connected vehicles in the fleet to deliver security insights. 

Cloud cybersecurity offers many advantages including end-to-end visibility and near real-time alerts. It uses machine learning and big data analytics to detect security policy violations.

  1. Forego your remote keys

While handy, remote access systems that can disable or monitor the vehicles can pose a high risk. Attackers need only to steal the smartphone to get access to the car. Controlling what the users’ smartphone app can do with an overarching security layer can quickly detect any policy violation and stop an attack in its tracks. 

  1. Don’t leave the passwords in the vehicle.

On the same line of thinking, criminals can hack one of the fleet’s cars and steal the system password from the vehicle. Store any sensitive credential in another secure location. 

  1. Control physical access to the company’s vehicles

Next, it is essential to ensure that no unauthorized user has access to your vehicles. Secure storage with authorization protocols will limit the chances of criminals stealing your cars or gaining unlawful access to your fleet’s software. 

  1. Educate employees in cybersecurity awareness

Your employees are often the first line of defense. Educating your employees on proper security practices, risks, and potential ramifications of an attack, is another way to prevent attacks. Implement regular training security programs, have policies and procedures in place. 

3 Ways Attackers May Hack Your Fleet

  1. They may hack onto your fleet’s wireless connections or the electric control unit: An attack on the Bluetooth or WiFi can disrupt critical abilities like steering and braking. 
  2. They can get in using a smartphone: They can get an entry point to a port inside the vehicle by stealing an employee’s or user’s smartphone. Attackers can then move laterally, causing damage to the entire fleet. 
  3. They may download your user’s or company data: Hackers gaining entry to your systems can access the record driving data and discover your client’s sensitive data.

Final Thoughts

Security risks are becoming a major concern for connected fleets. As the number of connected cars grows, it is critical for fleet owners and managers to manage the risk of attacks. Leveraging a cloud cybersecurity system can help you control risks and minimize exposure in cars already on the road. 

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