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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection The Resource Center | article

4 Steps To Guard Yourself Against Digital Carjacking

Follow these four steps to make sure you don't become the next victim of a digital carjacking. Having internet-enabled vehicles has offered a world of conveniences and enhancements, but just like any other bit of technology, there is also the risk of hacking. In this case, the act is referred to as “digital carjacking” or “car hacking.”

Security researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek proved the possibility of digital carjacking in 2014 when they exploited a vulnerability in a Jeep Cherokee’s infotainment system to kill its transmission – an experience recorded by Andy Greenberg of WIRED magazine, who was inside the car at the time of the hack.

Greenberg wrote that, without even touching the dashboard, the car’s vents began blasting cold air and the radio switched stations. His intervention couldn’t even stop what was happening. While Greenberg sped forward at 70 mph, slowly losing control of his vehicle, Miller and Valasek were on laptops in a house 10 miles away and manipulating the car’s software.

MSN reported that the incident forced Fiat Chrysler, the maker of Jeep, to recall 1.4 million of its cars to patch security holes in the software. However, with more vehicles using computers to run their systems, it’s more than likely that this won’t be the last time a car is hacked. In fact, a year before Miller and Valasek hacked the Jeep, they did the same to a Ford Escape.

To help you avoid any dire consequences if you become the next victim, here are the four steps to prevent and survive a carjacking:

  1. Discuss Security Features
    When you buy a car, whether it’s brand new or used, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with all its systems and their security features. You can do so by discussing them with your autodealer or the car’s manufacturer. For cars you already own, read the manuals to learn this information.
  2. Guard Your Information
    Norton warns that OnStar users should be especially vigilant about locking their cars and protecting documents within them. Since OnStar can remotely shut off your engine if the vehicle is reported stolen, you won’t want your information to get in a hacker’s hands, as IT provider Tech Solution’s President and Co-Founder John Luludis told Norton.
  3. Update Software
    Just as with personal computers, you’ll need to make sure that the software inside your car is frequently updated. These updates may include new security features to combat hacking, so missing out on them can give you a major vulnerability.

    In a public service announcement, the FBI warned consumers to verify these updates before installing them, though, and avoid uploading any unauthorized software. The agency also said to keep an eye out for any product recalls, in case your vehicle has a serious flaw like the Jeep Cherokee.

  4. Don’t Panic – Take action
    If you suddenly lose control of your vehicle, don’t panic. There are some actions you can take to make sure the hack doesn’t become life-threatening, even in some worst-case scenarios.

    Greenberg wrote that drivers should keep their grip on the steering wheel. Hackers may try to take over through a parking assist feature, but their efforts shouldn’t be stronger than your grip. If your brakes stop working, use the parking brake or switch the transmission to park. If your car begins accelerating, you can either switch to neutral or turn the car off, if possible.

Unlike other hacking incidents, digital carjacking doesn’t appear to have any financial motives, as Ryan Smith, a principal research with Accuvant Labs, told Norton. However, your finances deserve the same protection as your car. One way to make the effort is to invest in a monitoring service, like Identity Guard, which can monitor your credit files and notify you of certain activity that may indicate fraud.