What Is “Car Hacking” and How Can I Protect My Car?

Mechanic performing engine diagnostic check.

With the introduction of computer chips, smart technology, and automation, cars are becoming more and more digitally connected. While keyless entry, in-vehicle Wi-Fi, and premium entertainment systems are great high-tech features, but they also leave your vehicle open to something known as “car hacking.” 

Just like with a computer or smartphone, you must be careful about how you protect your vehicle and the private information your computer systems may contain. Car hacking is still relatively new, but understanding what it is and how it happens can help you defend against these attacks. Learn how hackers can try to get into your vehicle so you and your car can be as secure as possible. 

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What Is Car Hacking? 

While it may sound like something out of a Hollywood blockbuster, car hackers already exist here in the real world. Simply put, if your car has any electronic components that are connected to the internet, hackers can access them if your network isn’t secure. 

Just like your cell phone or your laptop, modern cars can connect to the internet wirelessly for things like navigation or streaming services. When they do this, they leave the metaphorical “car doors” open for hackers to get in and make changes or take control of certain aspects of your car’s software. The infotainment systems in newer vehicles are especially vulnerable to attacks and aren’t as secure as a home computer. Many of them don’t have the same firewall protection as modern smart devices, making them an easy target. 

Some systems even allow hackers to access and control things like the transmission, steering, and brakes. This is done by accessing a vehicle’s internal network and can allow hackers to do things like disable the brakes at low speeds and even turn the steering wheel in some cases. Because of this potential and dangerous vulnerability, protecting yourself and your vehicle from these attacks is becoming more critical than ever. 

However, while protecting your vehicle from hackers is a relatively new issue, safeguarding your car from breakdowns outside of your auto insurance coverage has always been essential. An Endurance vehicle protection plan can ensure that your car is taken care of if unexpected breakdowns or repairs occur. Endurance customers receive 1 year of free Elite Benefits with the purchase of any plan. These benefits include tire repair/replacement, key fob replacement, 24/7 roadside assistance, and more!

How Do Cars Get Hacked? 

There are a few ways that hackers can get into your vehicle’s internal network and make changes or gain control. The simplest way is physical access. If someone can gain access to your car’s central processing unit (CPU), they can often install transmitters that send out information or receivers that take commands. This is why it’s essential that you use a certified repair shop when bringing your car in for service. RepairPal offers a network of certified shops and licensed mechanics to help you find qualified assistance in your area. 

If your car has a Wi-Fi system, this can also open it up to attacks by hackers. Vehicle Wi-Fi systems aren’t as secure as your home wireless network, and this allows hackers to break into your vehicle’s network with ease. Cars with smartphone hookups like Bluetooth can also be broken into through the network. This gives hackers access to information on your phone, which can be very serious if you have things like your bank or home security information stored there. 

What Parts of Your Car Can Be Hacked? 

The most common places where vehicles can be hacked are in the CPU and diagnostic system. These are the brains of the vehicle, and many of them are not nearly as secure as they could be. A car’s CPU has microprocessors that control systems like steering, braking, and warning lights. They also hold information like driving data, revealing your habits and comings and goings to hackers. If these are compromised, you could find yourself in a very dangerous situation.

If your vehicle has wireless access to your smartphone, it could be vulnerable to hackers. This is especially dangerous if you have a smart garage door opener that uses an app on your phone. Hackers can easily get access to your garage or home by getting into your garage door app. Electronic key fobs are also very vulnerable to hackers since they are a simple radio frequency mechanism. 

Protect your vehicle and your wallet with a vehicle protection plan like EnduranceAdvantage™. Along with comprehensive breakdown protection, each EnduranceAdvantage plan includes up to $3,500 in regular maintenance services, including coverage for engine diagnostic exams. You can also receive key fob replacement and other perks as a part of your Elite Benefits – offered free for 1 year with the purchase of any Endurance plan.  

Costs of Vehicle Hacking

If your vehicle gets hacked, your best course of action will be to replace the hacked component. In some cases, these components can be costly and difficult to replace. Some of the costs associated with the replacement of hacked components include: 

  • New CPU: $100-$1,000 depending on make and model 
  • New infotainment system: $500-$1,600 depending on features 
  • New key fob: $150-$600
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Which Vehicles Can Be Hacked? 

Some vehicles are going to be more difficult to hack into than others. Not all cars that have wireless systems are open to attacks, and many newer vehicles have more secure internal networks. There will be more and more protections for car owners that have smart systems in their vehicles as time goes on. However, some of the vehicles that have been able to be hacked in the past include: 

How to Protect Your Car From Hackers

While your vehicle may be vulnerable to possible cybersecurity issues, there are many things you can do to protect your car from hackers. By staying vigilant and understanding that the possibility exists, you can protect yourself and your valuable personal information. The best thing to protect your car is to go to a certified repair facility or ASE Certified mechanics. These technicians are held to higher standards and will have personnel vetted much more thoroughly than shops that aren’t certified. 

You should also avoid using the web browser built into your vehicle’s infotainment system. If possible, turn off the Wi-Fi capability of the car as well. This will keep it from being open to hackers trying to get into the wireless network. Keep your eye out for recalls of your vehicle as well. Many new cars that have been hackable have been recalled so the car manufacturer can install more secure software. 

Lastly, you should always perform routine maintenance for your vehicle on a regular schedule. This will ensure that all your systems are working correctly and that they are as secure as possible. Along with comprehensive breakdown protection, EnduranceAdvantage offers up to $3,500 in maintenance so you can stay on top of your vehicle’s upkeep and help ensure it lasts for years to come. 

Protect Your Entire Vehicle with EnduranceAdvantage

As vehicles become more complex, hackers will have endless opportunities to get into your car’s system and cause havoc. Follow many of the same internet privacy best practices that you do for your smaller, personal devices. If you believe your car has been hacked, visit your nearest licensed repair facility or dealership to have the component repaired or replaced as soon as possible. 

You can also ensure your car is protected from unexpected breakdowns and costly repair bills with the help of EnduranceAdvantage. As the most comprehensive vehicle service contract on the market today, you can rest easy knowing your most vital components such as your engine, transmission, and suspension are covered. EnduranceAdvantage plans also come with $3,500 in regular maintenance coverage to help you stay on top of all your routine maintenance needs.

Request a free, no-obligation quote for more information about any of our auto protection plans, including EnduranceAdvantage. You can also visit our Learning Center to find more helpful and informative articles on common car maintenance issues, FAQs, make/model comparisons, and more.

A Vehicle Service Contract (VSC) is often referred to as an “auto warranty” or an “extended car warranty,” but it is not a warranty. A VSC does, however, provide repair coverage for your vehicle after the manufacturer’s car warranty expires. A VSC is a contract between you and a VSC provider or administrator that states what is a covered repair and what is not. Not all vehicles qualify for coverage; Endurance does not offer VSCs in California.