This article was published on April 28, 2021

Can your EV be hacked? Researchers say yes

Manufactures need to enhance their cybersecurity systems

Can your EV be hacked? Researchers say yes Image by:
Ioanna Lykiardopoulou
Story by

Ioanna Lykiardopoulou

Ioanna is a writer at TNW. She covers the full spectrum of the European tech ecosystem, with a particular interest in startups, sustainabili Ioanna is a writer at TNW. She covers the full spectrum of the European tech ecosystem, with a particular interest in startups, sustainability, green tech, AI, and EU policy. With a background in the humanities, she has a soft spot for social impact-enabling technologies.

As EVs and semi-automated vehicles are becoming a bigger part of our lives, cybersecurity concerns are growing.

Just a year ago, the Autopilot of the Tesla Model X was hacked, and not just once.

In one instance, Israeli researchers at Ben Gurion University tricked the car by flashing “phantom” images on a road, wall or sign, causing it to unexpectedly brake or steer in the wrong direction. 

A few months later, Lennert Wouters, a researcher at KU Leuven, “stole” a Tesla Model X in 90 seconds, Wired reported. 

Having spotted a vulnerability in its keyless entry system, he only needed $300 in computer hardware items, including a Tesla body control module from eBay, and some coding.

Indeed, automated electric cars are much more prone to hacking than conventional internal combustion engine vehicles, according to a new research paper, led by University of Georgia scientists.  

Four reasons why

Their powertrain consists of multiple complex and integrated cyber-physical systems that require constant monitoring and control, to ensure safety.

Tools such as adaptive cruise control and auto-assist functions are parts of a networked infrastructure, which can be potentially accessed by third parties.

The same goes for the vehicles’ increased connectivity through charging points and smart grids.

Similarly, their enhanced infotainment systems allow for higher levels of exposure.

Signs that your EV might have been hacked

Jin Ye, the lead author, advises owners of automated EVs to keep in mind the following main signs:

  • Damaged speed and/or acceleration.
  • Low percentage of battery capacity in a very short time.

These problems, of course, pose serious safety and functionality issues.

What can be done

The research suggests some essential techniques to protect such vehicles from cyber-attacks.

Better firewall, reliable hardware, secure software updates, and code reviews make up the majority.

Above all, Ye proposes the development of a cybersecurity monitoring system that will “detect, locate, diagnose, and mitigate cyberattacks.”

“Even though the research of vehicle cyber-security is still at an early stage, and the monitoring system cannot directly recover the system to a safety region, it can alert the driver to react in a timely fashion,” she remarked. 

Do EVs excite your electrons? Do ebikes get your wheels spinning? Do self-driving cars get you all charged up? 

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