Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Move over remote jamming, there’s a new con in town. German motorist association, ADAC said in January it had discovered and fixed a security flaw that could have allowed 2.2 million BMWs, Minis and Rolls-Royces to be remotely unlocked by hackers through BMW's ‘ConnectedDrive’.

A recent segment on CBS News’ ’60 minutes’ programme revealed the dangers implicit in this new remote hacking threat, which included causing the car to hoot, turn the headlights on or off, modify the speedometer and fuel gauge, and- most frighteningly- suddenly accelerate, turn, or brake.

According to Warwick Scott-Roger, Head of Dialdirect: “BMW’s convenient ‘ConnectedDrive’ feature allows drivers to browse the internet, access real-time traffic information and BMW’s concierge services, and control basic car functions, like locking and unlocking, from their smart phones. Although BMW now encrypts transmissions between cellphones and cars, the luxury automaker is hardly alone in their virtual vulnerability. Cars incorporating 2G technology for vehicle-to-vehicle networking, and even saved routes navigational software, provide an opportunity to hackers to learn not just where you park your car, but also where the rest of your valuables are kept as well.”

Scott-Roger says it’s a race between manufacturer and criminal.

“As long as there are specific models and makes that are sought after on the black market, car thieves will find new ways to infiltrate the latest security measures. Despite the incredible advancements in technology, nothing beats staying aware, and being vigilant of your surroundings,” says Scott-Roger.

Being that this is a relatively new risk, and one unlikely to be included in the average insurance policy, Scott-Roger goes on to add, “should a case like this be reported to Dialdirect, we would thoroughly investigate the merit of the claim, and, should the investigation prove that the customer has been a victim of wireless hacking, and that the customer took all the necessary precautions to safeguard their car against theft, the customer’s claim will be handled accordingly”. 

If you’re driving a connected car, here are a few safety tips to keep in mind. Many of these will apply even to cars without electronic additions.

  • Never leave items of interest lying in full view on car seats while driving, or when leaving your car parked.
  • Park your car in a secure parking lot where there are many other vehicles and ideally, security personnel.
  • Lock your car when driving and when leaving it parked.
  • When using a remote, double check that your car has been successfully locked before walking away.
  • Don’t remotely unlock your car until you are standing alongside it.
  • Don’t label your ‘Home’ route on your GPS, and never leave your navigational device in your car.
  • Empty your car at the end of each day, especially of items that you don’t want stolen.
  • Never leave house keys or important papers in your car.
  • Don’t leave car registration papers in your car.
  • Install window safety film to protect against break-ins and smash and grabs.
  • Ensure that you have adequate insurance cover to cover car theft and break-ins.

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